'Corruption': Democrats Accuse Trump as AG Barr Tries to Oust SDNY's Berman

Democrats decried what they said was "corruption" in response to an announcement that a top federal prosecutor who had been overseeing cases involving associates of President Donald Trump would leave his post.

Attorney General William Barr said on Friday night, that Geoffrey Berman would step down from his post as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY).

However, Berman, who was initially appointed in January 2018 by Barr's predecessor Jeff Sessions, said he had "no intention of resigning" and that he would only leave his position "when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate."

Berman had overseen the prosecution of President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen, who was jailed for fraud and lying to Congress. The SDNY has also been investigating Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani in a campaign finance case that has already led to charges against two associates of the former New York mayor.

New York Senator and the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the dismissal "reeks of potential corruption of the legal process," tweeting: "What is angering President Trump? A previous action by this U.S. Attorney or one that is ongoing?"

Other Democrats weighed in. Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth wrote on Twitter: "Corruption, cover ups and incompetence are hallmarks of the Trump administration."

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy tweeted: "This is bonkers. If it happened in another country, serious national security Republican Senators would send off a sternly worded letter."

New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, wrote: "America is right to expect the worst of Bill Barr, who has repeatedly interfered in criminal investigations on Trump's behalf. We have a hearing on this topic on Wednesday. We welcome Mr. Berman's testimony and will invite him to testify."

Pennsylvania Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon described the move as "another Friday night massacre," and accused Barr of "once again doing the president's bidding by firing the US Attorney investigating Rudy Guiliani. This is NOT normal."

Meanwhile, Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal tweeted: "We must hold this president, AG Barr, and their entire administration accountable. We cannot let them destroy our democracy for good."

Barr gave no explanation for the announcement, which stated that he was "stepping down after two-and-a-half years of service" and that he would be replaced by Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chairman Jay Clayton.

An unnamed Justice Department official told The Washington Post that the change came about because Clayton was going to leave the SEC this year and was interested in taking Berman's job.

Berman turned down Barr's offer to head the Justice Department's Civil Division, the Post reported.

A senior Justice Department official told The Associated Press the department will go ahead with the plan and would have Craig Carpenito, the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey, take over the SDNY temporarily from July 3.

Berman may be able to resist attempts to oust him. He was confirmed in the role by the federal court in his district, unlike most U.S. Attorneys who are normally nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

He referred to this in his statement on Friday, in which he said: "I have not resigned...my position, to which I was appointed by the Judges of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York."

Newsweek has contacted the White House and the Department of Justice for comment.

Geoffrey Berman
Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, pictured on October 10, 2019. Attorney General Bill Barr has announced Berman is leaving his post, which Berman said he would refuse to do. Drew Angerer/Getty Images