Trump administration ousts US attorney following standoff with Barr

A standoff between the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) has come to an end at last.

ABC News reports that after much back-and-forth with Attorney General Bill Barr, on Saturday Berman finally agreed to leave his post, but not without first assuring the public that investigations into Trump allies currently being conducted within the Southern District will indeed continue. 

Personnel standoff ends

According to ABC News, the whole controversy began on Friday when Barr attempted to convince Berman to leave his post by offering him “other positions.” Berman, however, refused.

“I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning my position,” Berman said in a statement. according to The New York Times. Indeed, Berman proceeded to go to work as he normally would the following morning. “I’m just here to do my job,” he said.

Therefore, Barr went ahead an announced Berman’s firing, according to NPR, writing in a letter that was released by the DOJ, “Unfortunately, with your statement of last night, you have chosen public spectacle over public service.” Berman, however, still refused to leave, leading to a standoff between himself and the DOJ.

Things didn’t change until later in the day on Saturday when Barr announced that Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss, Berman’s number two, would be taking over his role, as NPR reported separately.

Following that news, Berman stated that he would be stepping down immediately because Barr had finally decided “to respect the normal operation of law.” That, according to Berman, required that he remain in his post until a replacement had been named.

Precipitating events

Over the past couple of days, Berman had given the impression that his — or his colleagues’ — presence was needed to protect some of the investigations that the office is currently undertaking. One of those probes involves Rudy Giuliani, personal lawyer to President Donald Trump.

Democrats are already trying to treat Berman’s firing as an attempt by the Trump administration to get rid of the guy who is digging into the activities of one of its own.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has, accordingly, put out a statement calling for an investigation, saying that Berman’s firing “reeks of potential corruption of the legal process,” the New York Post reported.

It also doesn’t help that former National Security Adviser John Bolton, in his soon to be released book, claims that President Trump told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he would “take care” of an investigation that the SDNY is leading into a Turkish firm, supposedly telling Erdogan that “the Southern District prosecutors were not his people, but were Obama people, a problem that would be fixed when they were replaced by his people.”

We’ll have to see whether the Berman matter is finally over now or whether congressional Democrats are going to pursue this further. If the history of Trump’s presidency tells us anything, it is that we should probably expect the latter.

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