William Barr illegally tries to fire U.S. Attorney for SDNY to protect Trump associates (updated)

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H/T Graphic: Buzzflash.com

There were two “Friday night massacres” in May of Inspectors General over the past month, resulting in the firing of four Inspectors General investigating claims of corruption in the Trump administration.

Friday night, the most corrupt attorney general in the history of the United States in an attempted “Friday night massacre” announced that the U.S. Attorney for the “Sovereign” District of New York was resigning and would be replaced by a Trump toady with no prosecutorial experience.

Only Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, thereafter announced:

“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.”

We have a crisis of political corruption that can only be resolved with the removal of Attorney General William “Coverup” Barr, by impeachment if necessary, and the defeat of Donald Trump in November.

The AP reports, DOJ tries to oust US attorney investigating Trump allies:

The Justice Department moved abruptly Friday night to oust Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan overseeing key prosecutions of President Donald Trump’s allies and an investigation of his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. But Berman said he was refusing to leave his post and his ongoing investigations would continue.

“I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position,” Berman said. His statement came hours after Attorney General William Barr lied saying Berman was stepping down from his position.

Berman was appointed by the court, which means that Barr and Trump can’t just push him out:

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Barr offered no explanation for why he was pushing out Berman in the statement he issued late Friday. The White House quickly announced that Trump was nominating the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission to the job, a lawyer with virtually no experience as a federal prosecutor.

Because Berman was appointed by the federal court, he cannot be replaced until the U.S. Senate has confirmed a new U.S. Attorney for the SDNY. There is legal precedent indicating that only the court, not the Justice Department, can remove him until a replacement is confirmed by the Senate.

There should be no Senate confirmation of an unqualified Trump toady. Instead, the Senate should be impeaching William “Coverup” Barr under these circumstances.

Berman vowed to stay on the job until a Trump nominee is confirmed by the Senate, challenging Barr’s power to remove him from office because he was appointed to the job by federal judges, not by the president. Under federal law, a U.S. attorney who is appointed by district court judges can serve “until the vacancy is filled.”

* * *

The standoff set off an extraordinary clash between the Justice Department and one of the nation’s top districts, which has tried major mob and terror cases over the years. It is also likely to deepen tensions between the Justice Department and congressional Democrats who have pointedly accused Barr of politicizing the agency and acting more like Trump’s personal lawyer than the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.

The move to oust Berman also comes days after allegations surfaced from former Trump national security adviser John Bolton that the president sought to interfere in an Southern District of New York investigation into the state-owned Turkish bank in an effort to cut deals with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

A senior Justice Department official said the department was pressing forward with its plans and will have Craig Carpenito, the U.S. attorney in New Jersey, take over the office temporarily, starting on July 3. The official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the issue and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

Sorry, but NO. Barr cannot appoint another acting U.S. Attorney for SDNY to replace the current acting U.S. Attorney appointed by the Court. This is in defiance of the authority of federal court.

Democrats have repeatedly accused Trump’s Justice Department of political interference, and those concerns have also been pervasive among some rank and file officials in the agency. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said his committee was inviting Berman to testify next week.

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Federal prosecutors in New York have overseen numerous prosecutions and investigations with ties to Trump in recent years. That includes an ongoing investigation into Giuliani’s business dealings, including whether he failed to register as a foreign agent, according to people familiar with the probe. The people were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The office has also prosecuted a number of Trump associates, including Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who served a prison sentence for lying to Congress and campaign finance crimes.

Berman has also overseen the prosecution of two Florida businessmen, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were associates of Giuliani and tied to the Ukraine impeachment investigation. The men were charged in October with federal campaign finance violations, including hiding the origin of a $325,000 donation to a group supporting Trump’s reelection.

Attention refocused on the Southern District this week after news organizations, including The Associated Press, obtained copies of Bolton’s tell-all book. Bolton alleges in the book that Trump sought to cut a deal to stop federal prosecutors in New York from investigating whether Halkbank violated U.S. sanctions against Iran in order to free an American pastor imprisoned in Turkey.

Six weeks after the pastor’s release, Bolton writes that on a call with the Turkish president,“Trump then told Erdoğan he would take care of things, explaining 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.”

The White House is seeking to block the public release of Bolton’s book, saying it is being published without formal authorization that the manuscript was free of classified information.

The episode Bolton describes occurred months after Berman assumed the role of U.S. attorney.

A Republican who contributed to the president’s election campaign, Berman worked for the same law firm as Giuliani and was put in his job by the Trump administration. But as U.S. attorney, he won over some skeptics after he went after Trump allies, and had a direct hand in other investigations that have angered the president.

Berman was appointed by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in January 2018, after Preet Bharara, then US attorney in New York, was fired. Bharara had refused to resign along with dozens of other federal prosecutors appointed by President Barack Obama.

Months later, FBI agents raided Cohen’s offices, an act the president decried as a politically motivated witch hunt. Berman recused himself from Cohen’s prosecution though it was never explained why.

The following April, in the absence of a formal nomination by Trump, the judges in Manhattan federal court voted to appoint Berman to the position permanently. The White House never said why Trump didn’t formally nominate Berman.

Yet the links between the White House and some of Berman’s investigations were clear. His office subpoenaed Trump’s inaugural committee for a wide range of documents as part of an investigation into various potential crimes, including possible illegal contributions from foreigners to inaugural events.

And weeks before the 2018 midterm election, Berman announced insider trading charges against an ardent Trump supporter, Republican Rep. Chris Collins. Collins, who represented western New York, has since resigned.

The White House said in a statement Friday that Trump is nominating SEC Chairman Jay Clayton to the post. Before taking the reins at the SEC, Clayton was a well-connected Wall Street lawyer who represented and advised a number of major companies, including Goldman Sachs, Barclays, Deutsche Bank [Trump Bank] and UBS.

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The New York Times adds, Clash Over U.S. Attorney Who Investigated Trump Associates Sets Off Crisis:

The clash over one of the Justice Department’s most prestigious jobs came as the agency had already been roiled by questions over whether Mr. Barr had undercut its tradition of independence from political interference.

It also raised complicated constitutional and legal questions because of the highly unusual way that Mr. Berman received his job. The president and attorney general can typically dismiss United States attorneys, but Mr. Berman was not ultimately appointed by the Trump administration — he was named by a panel of federal judges.

Mr. Barr’s announcement that Mr. Trump was seeking to replace Mr. Berman was made with no notice. Mr. Barr said the president intended to nominate as Mr. Berman’s successor Jay Clayton, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who has never served as a prosecutor.

[U.S. attorneys are typically replaced by their first assistants, but Mr. Trump’s choice to replace Mr. Berman is an outsider who has never worked in that office.]

[Mr. Clayton is not a litigator or a former prosecutor, which often are prerequisites to being named a United States attorney, especially in a jurisdiction as prominent as the Southern District.]

Mr. Barr met with Mr. Berman on Friday in New York, according to a person familiar with the matter. It was not clear what they discussed.

Mr. Barr asked Mr. Berman to resign, but he refused, so Mr. Barr moved to fire him, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Trump had been discussing removing Mr. Berman for some time with a small group of advisers, the person said. Mr. Trump has been upset with Mr. Berman ever since the Manhattan prosecutor’s office pursued a case against Mr. Cohen.

At some point during their conversation, Mr. Barr suggested to Mr. Berman that he might take over the civil division of the Justice Department if he agreed to leave the position in Manhattan, according to a person familiar with the conversation.

The Washington Post adds this detail:

One Justice Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the situation’s volatility, said the change arose because Clayton was preparing to leave the SEC later this year and had also expressed interest in the New York prosecutor job. Barr liked Clayton and liked the idea, the official said. Barr offered Berman the chance to become the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, but Berman declined, the official said.

UPDATE: The New York Times adds:

Mr. Clayton, who is friendly with Mr. Trump and has golfed with the president at his club in Bedminster, N.J., had recently signaled to his friends that he wanted to return to his home in New York City and was interested in Mr. Berman’s job.

Mr. Trump’s purge of officials has intensified in the months since the Republican-led Senate acquitted him in the impeachment trial. He has fired or forced out inspectors general with independent oversight over executive branch agencies and other key figures from the trial.

Several dismissals have come late on Friday nights, a time that many White Houses have used to disclose news that they would prefer receive little attention.

The highly public tussle between Mr. Barr and Mr. Berman that unfolded late on Friday was another example of the tumult that has engulfed the Justice Department in recent months.

The attorney general’s interventions in high-profile cases involving the onetime Trump advisers Roger J. Stone Jr. and Michael T. Flynn have prompted accusations from current and former law enforcement officials that Mr. Barr has politicized the department.

Mr. Berman’s office has taken an aggressive approach in a number of cases that have vexed the Trump administration, from the prosecution and guilty plea obtained from Mr. Cohen to a broader investigation, growing out of that inquiry, which focused on Mr. Trump’s private company and others close to him.

Over the last year, Mr. Berman’s office brought indictments against two close associates of the president’s current lawyer, Mr. Giuliani, and began an investigation into Mr. Giuliani himself, focusing on whether his efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine on the president’s political rivals violated laws on lobbying for foreign entities.

Mr. Berman’s office also conducted an investigation into Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee, subpoenaing financial and other records as part of a broad inquiry into possible illegal contributions from foreigners.

Mr. Barr also announced that on his recommendation, Mr. Trump had appointed Craig Carpenito, the current U.S. attorney for New Jersey, to serve as acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan while the Senate considers Mr. Clayton’s nomination. Mr. Barr said Mr. Carpenito’s appointment would be effective July 3.

Again, sorry, but NO. Barr cannot appoint another acting U.S. Attorney for SDNY to replace the current acting U.S. Attorney appointed by the Court. This is in defiance of the authority of federal court. Request a court hearing today.

This raises some disturbing questions: did William “Coverup” Barr get a heads up that indictments are coming down from SDNY for Rudy Giuliani and/or Trump organizations? Is he trying to cover-up Trump’s attempt to cut deals with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, described in John Bolton’s book? Did Barr get a heads up from someone at the U.S. Supreme Court that the court is going to rule next week in favor of enforcing the subpoenas for Trump financial documents? (And if he did, this is a major scandal in itself). This corrupt bastard needs to be in front of a congressional impeachment committee ASAP.

“Mafia Don” Trump and his consigliere William “Coverup” Barr need to be removed from office, prosecuted and convicted, where they can spend the rest of their miserable lives rotting in prison.

UPDATE: Speaking briefly to reporters outside the White House before heading to a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, President Trump appeared to distance himself from the firing of Geoffrey S. Berman, saying he was “not involved.” But the New York Times calls out his lie: Trump Personally Fires U.S. Attorney Who Investigated His Associates:

President Trump on Saturday personally fired the United States Attorney in Manhattan, Geoffrey S. Berman, whose office has pursued one case after another that has rankled the president and his allies, putting his former personal lawyer in prison and investigating his current one.

In a letter released by the Justice Department, Attorney General William P. Barr accused of Mr. Berman of choosing “public spectacle over public service” because he would not voluntarily step down from the position.

“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,” the letter read. Mr. Barr said Mr. Berman’s top deputy, Audrey Strauss, would become the acting United States Attorney.

The dismissal of Mr. Berman came after his office brought a series of highly sensitive cases that worried and angered Mr. Trump and others in his inner circle.

* * *

Mr. Barr’s attempt to fire Mr. Berman got pushback on Saturday from an unexpected source: Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a close ally of Mr. Trump.

Mr. Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee — the body that would approve Mr. Clayton’s nomination — suggested in a statement that he would allow New York’s two Democratic senators to thwart the nomination through a procedural maneuver. He complimented Mr. Clayton but noted that he had not heard from the administration about any formal plans to name him.

Senator Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, urged Mr. Clayton to withdraw his name from consideration for the post and called for an investigation into the decision to dismiss Mr. Berman.

LATE UPDATE: Geoffrey S. Berman announced that he is resigning effective immediately in a statement:

Statement Of Geoffrey S. Berman

“In light of Attorney General Barr’s decision to respect the normal operation of law and have Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss become Acting U.S. Attorney, I will be leaving the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, effective immediately.  It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve as this District’s U.S. Attorney and a custodian of its proud legacy, but I could leave the District in no better hands than Audrey’s.  She is the smartest, most principled, and effective lawyer with whom I have ever had the privilege of working.  And I know that under her leadership, this Office’s unparalleled AUSAs, investigators, paralegals, and staff will continue to safeguard the Southern District’s enduring tradition of integrity and independence.”




2 COMMENTS

  1. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has a DOJ veteran confirm that Trump and Barr cannot pick Berman’s “acting” replacement:

    Until the Senate confirms someone, that choice plainly belongs exclusively to the SDNY judges under 18 USC 846. If Trump tries to ignore that and install his own pick anyway he faces two problems he can’t easily overcome. First, there would be a staff revolt. Second, every criminal defendant indicted under the bogus US Attorney would have standing to seek dismissal because the indictment was not authorized or signed by the lawful US Attorney — and those motions would be decided by the same SDNY judges whose authority Trump is trying to usurp.

  2. With over 40,000,000 people unemployed, a deadly pandemic sweeping the nation, and unrest in the streets, this is the most frightening story of the week, month, and year.

    The GOP Senators who let this petty crime boss off the impeachment hook are not going to look good in the history books.

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