U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman Fired By Trump, William Barr Says In Letter

President Donald Trump has fired U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, a letter sent Saturday to Berman by Attorney General William Barr says.

Berman's dismissal comes after reports surfaced Friday that he was resigning from his post as the top attorney for the Southern District of New York, though Berman later released a statement through the SDNY office that said he had no intention of leaving office until the Senate confirmed his replacement.

"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," Berman said in a release.

Under federal law, the presidential administration must appoint, and then the Senate must confirm, federal prosecutors. Otherwise, the court may appoint an individual to fill a position on an interim basis until the process has been completed. Berman was appointed in January 2018 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and approved by the court in April of that year.

In his letter, Barr told Berman that he was "was surprised and quite disappointed by the press statement you released last night" and that he hoped for the attorney's "cooperation to facilitate a smooth transition" for the new appointee to the post, Jay Clayton, the current Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

"Unfortunately, with your statement of last night, you have chosen public spectacle over public service. Because you have declared that you have no intention of resigning, I have asked the President to remove you as of today, and he has done so," Barr stated in his letter, adding that Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss would become the acting U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York until a permanent successor is named.

Barr also indicated Berman's statement "reflects a misunderstanding" on when he can be "displaced," citing two cases in which Barr said it was found that the president "may, at any time, remove the judicially appointed United States Attorney."

However, while speaking to reporters ahead of his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday, Trump said he is "not involved" with firing federal prosecutors and that it is up to Barr to make those decisions.

The SDNY is currently conducting investigations into Trump allies, including former New York City mayor and Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. In Berman's statement Friday, he said that the SDNY's 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," Berman continued.

In his letter, Barr said Berman's statement "wrongly implies" the investigations will only be handled appropriately with him at the helm.

"I fully expect that the office will continue to handle all cases in the normal course
and pursuant to the Department's applicable standards, policies, and guidance," Barr stated. "Going forward, if any actions or decisions are taken that office supervisors conclude are improper interference with a case, that information should be provided immediately to Michael Horowitz, the Department of Justice's Inspector General, whom I am authorizing to review any such claim."

Newsweek reached out to the SDNY and the U.S. attorney general's office for comment, but they did not respond back in time for publication.

This story has been updated with additional background and quotes, including President Donald Trump's reaction.

AG Bill Barr
Attorney General William Barr in the Oval Office on May 28, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images) Doug Mills-Pool/Getty