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Attorney General Barr tells Manhattan U.S. Attorney Berman he is fired amid power

U.S. Attorney General William Barr discusses a Trump administration executive order on the International Criminal Court during a joint news conference at the State Department in Washington, June 11, 2020.

Yuri Gripas | Reuters

Attorney General William Barr told the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, Geoffrey Berman, that he has been fired by President Donald Trump in a letter Saturday after Berman initially refused to step down. 

The letter informing Berman of his removal comes amid a power struggle over who will fill one of the most powerful federal law enforcement positions in the nation. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York leads an office that has launched multiple investigations into associates of President Trump.   

Attorney General Barr, in his letter Saturday, accused Berman of choosing “public spectacle over public service” by refusing to step aside and said the president has removed Berman as the top prosecutor in Manhattan upon his request effective immediately. Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss is now acting U.S. attorney in the district, Barr said. 

“Because you have declared that you have no intention of resigning, I have asked the President to remove you as of today, and he has done so,” Barr told Berman in the letter. 

The Trump administration has moved to nominate Securities and Exchange Commissioner Jay Clayton to the position of U.S. attorney for New York’s southern district. Barr said in a press release Friday night that Berman was stepping down from the position.

However, Berman said he had no intention to resign his post until the nominee appointed by Trump is confirmed by the Senate. 

After Barr’s letter was made public, Berman said he was now in fact leaving his position since his deputy Strauss will become acting U.S. attorney for the district. He said Strauss “will continue to safeguard the Southern District’s enduring tradition of integrity and independence.” 

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve as this District’s U.S. Attorney and a custodian of its proud legacy, but I could leave the District in no better hands than Audrey’s,” Berman said. “She is the smartest, most principled, and effective lawyer with whom I have ever had the privilege of working.” 

New York’s southern district is investigating Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and obtained a conviction of the president’s previous personal attorney, Michael Cohen, for financial crimes. 

The White House had originally sought to appoint the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, Craig Carpenito, as acting U.S. Attorney for New York’s southern district while the Senate considers the nomination of Clayton. Carpenito is close to former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who in turn is an ally of Trump. 

Trump told reporters before boarding Marine One Saturday that he was not involved in the decision to dismiss Berman. 

Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks during a press conference at the U.S….

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2020-06-21 00:32:27

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