Jun 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

U.S. attorney for Southern District of New York says he will not step down

U.S. attorney for Southern District of New York Geoffery Berman speaking at a press conference
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman. Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Image

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman released a statement late Friday night indicating he has "no intention of resigning," and will "step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate."

Why it matters: Berman said he learned of his own departure when Attorney General Bill Barr put out a press release earlier Friday evening announcing Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton had been nominated for the position and that Berman would be "stepping down."

  • The Manhattan U.S. attorney oversees one of the highest profile districts in the country, and has supervised probes involving President Trump, his campaign and a number of his ex-associates.
  • Berman's office has been conducting a criminal investigation into Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, in a campaign finance case, The Washington Post reports. Two of Giuliani's associates have already been charged in the investigation.
  • Federal prosecutors have investigated Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen and sex offender Jeffery Epstein under Berman's leadership.

Yes, but: Berman "is almost uniquely positioned to resist efforts to oust him, at least for a while," the Post writes, given that he was appointed by a federal court in his district. Some legal precedents suggest that only that court can remove him until a replacement is confirmed by the Senate.

The big picture: Friday night's attempt to push Berman out brings "new attention on the efforts by Mr. Trump and his closes aides to rid the administration of officials whom the president views as insufficiently loyal," The New York Times writes.

  • It also raises questions about whether Barr "has undercut [the Justice Department's] tradition of independence from political interference."

What Berman's saying:

“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.
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.  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.”
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