Trump fires the US attorney investigating his allies

“President Donald Trump has fired Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan who has led investigations of the president’s inner circle. Berman had refused to step down from his post Friday after US Attorney General Bill Barr attempted to oust him.

Barr, who has long been accused of protecting Trump’s close allies, announced Berman’s resignation in a press release late Friday in an apparent effort to draw little attention to the matter. He named Jay Clayton, the current chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who has no experience as a prosecutor, as Trump’s pick for Berman’s successor.

But within hours, Berman countered that he did not, and would not, tender his resignation and that the first he had heard of it was from Barr’s press release.

“I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position,” Berman said in a statement. “I will step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate. Until then, our investigations will move forward without delay or interruption.”

On Saturday, however, Barr told Berman in a letter that the president had fired him: “Because you have declared you have no intention of resigning, I have asked the President to remove you as of today, and he has done so,” wrote Barr. Berman’s deputy, Audrey Strauss, will serve as the acting US attorney in Manhattan until his replacement is confirmed by the Senate, according to the Washington Post.”

“Berman has been investigating Giuliani’s efforts to find damaging information in Ukraine about Trump’s political opponents to determine whether he violated laws on lobbying for foreign entities. He has also indicted two of Giuliani’s business associates and successfully pursued a case against Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about Trump’s plans to build a skyscraper in Moscow.

Berman is not the first official who the Trump administration has ousted in recent months. Trump also fired Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who played a central role in bringing the whistleblower complaint at the heart of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry to light, and State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, who was reportedly investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.”

“The Justice Department has historically operated independently from the executive branch, but under Trump, that paradigm has appeared to change.”

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