AG Barr, moves to oust U.S. Attorney who investigated Trump associates

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U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman
Source: U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY)

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Attorney General William Barr is seeking to oust Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) who supervised cases and investigations against President Donald Trump’s associates.

In a press release on Friday night, Barr said Trump currently “intends to nominate Jay Clayton” to replace Berman. Clayton is the current Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Barr explained that Clayton’s management experience and expertise in financial regulation give him an “ideal background” to serve as the next U.S. Attorney for the SDNY.

The Attorney General also stated that he recommended Craig Carpentino to serve as Acting U.S. Attorney for the SDNY while the Senate is considering Clayton’s nomination. Carpentino is the current U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.

The decision to push out Berman comes after Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton alleged in his book that the President attempted to interfere in Berman’s investigation into a Turkish bank, in an effort to cut deals with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Berman refuses to step down as U.S. Attorney for SDNY

In a separate statement, Berman said he will not vacate his position until the Senate confirms a nominee appointed by the President.

He is challenging Barr’s authority to oust to him from his position, citing the fact that federal judges appointed him, not Trump. Under federal law, a U.S. Attorney appointed by a district court judges can serve “until the vacancy is filled.”

“I learned in a press release from the Attorney General tonight that I was ‘stepping down’ as United States Attorney,” said Berman. “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. 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,” he added. “I cherish every day that I work with the men and women of this Office to pursue justice without fear or favor — and intend to ensure that this Office’s important cases continue unimpeded.”

Berman’s Office is currently investigating Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. The probe is focused on whether Giuliani violated federal laws on lobbying for foreign entities in connection with his dealings in Ukraine.