PRESIDENT Donald Trump has officially fired the US attorney in Manhattan, Attorney General William Barr said on Saturday.
Geoffrey Berman, attorney for the Southern District of New York, said he plans to fight his ousting that's been part of a public standoff.
On Friday night, the Justice Department published a press release that said Berman resigned from his position.
But an hour later, Berman put out a statement himself, saying he actually had no intention to resign at all.
"I learned in a press release from the Attorney General tonight that I was 'stepping down' as United States Attorney," Berman said. "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."
Berman continued: "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."
On Saturday morning, Berman showed up to work at his office and told reporters he was "just here to do my job."
Barr said in a scathing letter to Berman on Saturday that he "was surprised and quite disappointed by the press statement you released last night."
"As we discussed, I wanted the opportunity to choose a distinguished New York lawyer, Jay Clayton, to nominate as United States Attorney and was hoping for your cooperation to facilitate a smooth transition."
When the Department of Justice advised the public of the President's intent to nominate your successor, I had understood that we were in ongoing discussions concerning the possibility of your remaining in the Department or Administration in one of the other senior positions we discussed, including Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division and Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission."
Barr continued: "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."
"By operation of law, the Deputy United States Attorney, Audrey Strauss, will become the Acting United States Attorney, and I anticipate that she will serve in that capacity until a permanent successor is in place."
While Barr said Trump "removed" Berman from his position, the president told reporters on Saturday that firing Berman is "all up to the attorney general. That's really up to him. I'm not involved."
It was unclear why Berman was fired from his position, which he's held for more than two years.
He was named interim US attorney after then-US Attorney Preet Bharara was fired by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2018.
Barr said on Friday night that Trump intends to nominate Jay Clayton, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who has never served as a prosecutor, to the post.
Craig Carpenito, the US attorney in New Jersey, will serve as the acting US attorney in Manhattan from July 3, Barr said.
Barr's announcement came with no notice after he visited New York City and met with local police officials there.
According to The New York Times, Berman was asked to resign but he refused, leading Barr to fire him.
Trump had reportedly been discussing removing Berman for some time, per the report.
The timing of Barr's announcement — around 10pm on Friday evening — also raised questions regarding the circumstances of Berman's departure.
Berman, a Republican who contributed to Trump's election campaign in 2016, worked for the same law firm as Trump lawyer and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was put in his job by the Trump administration.
As a US attorney, however, Berman won over some skeptics when he went after allies of Trump.
Berman's office took an aggressive approach in a number of cases that frustrated the Trump administration — including guilty pleas obtained from Michael Cohen, Trump's longtime fixer, who was sent to prison.
Berman recused himself from directly overseeing the investigation of Cohen for reasons that were never disclosed.Tensions between the New York and Washington offices also grown, with Berman and Barr clashing over the handling of some cases, including the indictment of Turkish bank Halkbank.
Trump, too, had been angered by a series of investigations that Berman was involved in.
The office for the Southern District of New York subpoenaed Trump's inaugural committee for a wide range of financial and other documents as part of an investigation into potential crimes — including possible illegal contributions from foreigners.
Weeks before the 2018 midterm election, Berman also announced insider trading charges against an ardent Trump supporter, Republican Representative Chris Collins, who has since resigned and been sentenced to prison.
Over the last year, the Manhattan office also brought indictments against two close associates of Giuliani.
An investigation into Giuliani himself also began, focusing on his efforts to dig up dirt on the president's political rivals in Ukraine, and whether these could have violated laws on lobbying from foreign entities.
Berman's office also brought charges against Michael Avenatti, the lawyer who represented porn actress Stormy Daniels in lawsuits involving Trump.
Avenatti was convicted earlier this year of trying to extort sportswear giant Nike after prosecutors said he threatened to use his media access to hurt Nike's reputation and stock price.
The Southern District of New York also requested testimony from Britain's Prince Andrew, as part of a criminal investigation into the alleged co-conspirators of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, according to reports.
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