An extraordinary standoff between the Attorney General William Barr and Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor ended Saturday when the prosecutor has agreed to leave his job with the assurance that the investigations conducted by the office of the prosecutor in the president, the allies would not be disturbed.
The U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman announced that he was going to leave his post, the end of the increasingly nasty exchanges between Barr and Berman. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, had taken his distances with the dispute, telling journalists that the decision “was all the attorney general.”
This episode has raised new questions about political interference in the Justice Department, especially since Berman has been investigating Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. It has also reinforced the tensions between the department and the congressional Democrats, who have accused Barr of the politicization of the agency and to act more like Trump’s personal lawyer, the chief administrator of the law enforcement officer.
The whirlwind chain of events began Friday night, when Barr was announced that Berman, as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, had resigned. Hours later, the prosecutor issued a statement denying that he had resigned from his post and saying that his office is “investigations, to proceed without delay and without interruption.”
On Saturday morning, he showed up at work, telling journalists, “I’m just here to do my job.”
The administration of the push to put aside Berman set up a special constitutional and political confrontation between the Ministry of Justice and one of the best in the country districts, which tried the great crowd, the financial crime and terrorism cases over the years.
Only a few days ago, allegations surfaced of the former Trump national security adviser John Bolton, that the president has sought to interfere in an investigation conducted by Berman of the office in the state-owned Turkish bank, in an effort to accept agreements with the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In a letter made public by the Ministry of Justice on Saturday afternoon, Barr said he should continue to speak with Berman about other possible positions within the department and was “surprised and disappointed” by the statement that he has published.
“Unfortunately, with your statement of last night, you have chosen to show the public on the public service,” Barr wrote, adding that the idea that Berman had to continue the work of safeguard investigations is “false”.
“Your statement wrongly implies that your permanent mandate of the office is necessary to ensure that cases pending in the Southern District of New York are adequately addressed,” he wrote. “That is obviously false.”
Although Barr said Trump had removed Berman, the president has declared to journalists: “This is all for the attorney general. Attorney General Barr is working on this. It is his ministry, not in my department.” Trump added: “I wasn’t involved.”
Barr has offered no explanation of his action. The White House has announced that the Trump is the appointment of the Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton, a Wall Street lawyer with virtually no experience as a federal prosecutor, for the work.
Berman originally planned to stay in his job until a replacement was confirmed, but he changed his mind late Saturday after-Barr said that it would allow Berman’s second in command, Assistant U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss, to become acting U.S. attorney.
Berman said that led him to announce that he was going to leave, “effective immediately.”
“I was able to leave the Area in no better hands than Audrey,” Berman said. He added that his appointment meant Barr had decided to “adhere to the normal functioning of the law.”
People familiar with the case in the Southern District could, without any clear reason for Berman of the kidnapping, but they noted that his work had always seemed to be in danger, and Berman never gave the feeling that he was safe.
Berman’s office also took action on important matters without informing the state of Washington. But the various investigations are ongoing and no charges appear imminent, said people familiar with the matter, who were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
A top official in the state department, said Clayton had the intention to leave the administration, wanted to go back to New York and have expressed their interest in the Southern District of position, and Barr thought it would be a good fit. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss internal department issues and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Father Lindsey Graham, R-S. C., said that it was unlikely to proceed to Clayton of the appointment, except that New York senators, Democrats Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, have given their consent to the collection. Schumer said the attempt to oust Berman “reeks of potential corruption of the judicial process,” and Gillibrand said that she would “not be complicit” to help the fire of a prosecutor to investigate corruption. The two legislators called for Clayton to withdraw from the examination.
The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N. y., said that his committee has been to invite Berman to testify this coming week. Schumer called for the department of the inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate.
Berman’s statement Friday evening said that he would remain on the job until a candidate has been confirmed by the Senate. He challenged Barr to be able to remove, given that Berman has been appointed by federal judges, and not by the president, and the White House has never officially named. Under federal law, an AMERICAN lawyer who is appointed by the district court judges may serve “until the vacancy is filled.”
But the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel has argued in a 1979 opinion that the “power to remove a tribunal appointed by the U.S. attorney rests with the president.” He said, “The president is responsible for the conduct of a U.S. Attorney’s office and, therefore, must have the power to delete it considers that it is a bad owner regardless of who was appointed.”
Federal prosecutors in New York have overseen numerous prosecutions and investigations, with links to take in the last few years. That includes an ongoing investigation into Giuliani’s business dealings, including whether he failed to register as a foreign agent, according to people familiar with the matter. They were not allowed to discuss the public inquiry and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The office also continued a number of Asset associated with it, including Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who has served a prison sentence for having lied to the Congress and the financing of the campaign of crimes. Cohen was recently released from a federal prison to continue serving his sentence to home confinement on coronavirus concerns.
Berman oversaw the prosecution of two businessmen in Florida, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who have been partners of Giuliani and attached to Ukraine, dismissal of the investigation. The men were charged in October with federal campaign finance violations, including hiding the origin of a $325,000 donation to a support group of Asset re-election.
A Republican who has contributed to the chairperson of the electoral campaign, Berman has worked for the same law firm that Giuliani and has been used as an agent of the UNITED states by the Trumpet of the administration. In this role, he has won over some skeptics after he went after Trump allies.
Under Berman’s mandate, his office has also laid charges against Michael Avenatti, the combative lawyer who has earned fame by representing the porn actress Stormy Daniels in the trial involving Trump. Avenatti was sentenced in February to try to squeeze Nike after prosecutors said that he threatened to use his access to the media to hurt Nike’s reputation and the price of the shares, unless the giant sports clothing paid him up to $ 25 million.
Associated Press writers Colleen Long and Eric Tucker, Zeke Miller, and Marcy Gordon in Washington and Tom Hays and Kevin Hagen, in New York, contributed to this report.