New York, June 20: Geoffrey Berman, the powerful US attorney for the Southern District of New York who has investigated a number of associates of President Donald Trump, has said that he has not resigned and has no intention of doing so after the Justice Department moved abruptly to oust him.
Attorney General William P Barr on Friday announced that President Trump planned to replace Berman.
“I learned in a press release from the Attorney General tonight that I was ‘stepping down’ as United States Attorney. I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position, to which I was appointed by the Judges of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York,” Berman said in a statement on Friday night.
He asserted that he will step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate.
“Until then, our investigations will move forward without delay or interruption. I cherish every day that I work with the men and women of this Office to pursue justice without fear or favour – and intend to ensure that this Office’s important cases continue unimpeded.”
Berman’s statement came in response to Barr announcement that Trump intends to nominate the current Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission Jay Clayton as the next United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Barr said in a statement that he thanks Berman, “who is stepping down after two-and-a-half years of service” as Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor.
“With tenacity and savvy,” Barr said Berman has done “an excellent job leading one of our nation’s most significant U.S. Attorney’s Offices, achieving many successes on consequential civil and criminal matters. I appreciate his service to the Department of Justice and our nation, and I wish him well in the future.”
Barr added that on his recommendation, Trump has appointed Craig Carpenito, currently the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, to serve as the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, while the Senate is considering Clayton’s nomination. The appointment will be effective July 3 and Carpenito will work closely with Berman to “ensure a smooth transition.”
Barr said that Clayton’s management experience and expertise in financial regulation gives him an “ideal background” to lead the US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan.
Berman, the powerful federal prosecutor, investigated a number of associates with ties to Trump, including the President’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who was sentenced to prison, as well as Trump’s current personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani.
Manhattan’s former federal prosecutor Indian-American Preet Bharara, who was fired by Trump soon after he took office in 2017, tweeted “Why does a president get rid of his own hand-picked US Attorney in SDNY on a Friday night, less than 5 months before the election?”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the “late Friday night dismissal reeks of potential corruption of the legal process. What is angering President Trump? A previous action by this U.S. Attorney or one that is ongoing?”
A report in The New York Times said Berman “has taken an aggressive approach in a number of cases that have vexed the Trump administration, from the prosecution and guilty pleas obtained from Cohen to a broader investigation, growing out of that inquiry, which focused on Trump’s private company and others close to him.”
It added that over the last year, Berman’s office has brought indictments against Giuliani’s two close associates and opened an investigation into Giuliani, “focusing on whether his efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine on the president’s political rivals violated laws on lobbying for foreign entities.
Berman’s office also conducted an investigation into Trump’s inaugural committee, subpoenaing financial and other records as part of a broad inquiry into possible illegal contributions from foreigners, the NYT said. (PTI)