In case you missed the late-night Friday news dump, the Justice Department released a statement saying that Geoffrey Berman, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan who serves as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, would be leaving his post, the Associated Press reports.
The statement from U.S. Attorney General William Barr gave no further details as to why Berman would be stepping down—though, given the prosecutor’s track record of going after a bunch of the President’s shady associates, it’s not that hard to draw your own conclusions.
I mean, here’s a brief list of reasons why Donald Trump might want this guy out, per the AP:
- “an investigation of [Trump’s] personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani”
- “[Berman’s] 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 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.”
Hmm! Much to think about…
Anyway! Berman, whom the AP says learned about his ousting through reading the Justice Department’s statement just like the rest of us, released a statement of his own about an hour later.
“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,” reads Berman’s statement, per CNN.
Adding to the chaos, the White House announced that Trump would soon nominate Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton—a corporate lawyer with basically no experience as a federal prosecutor, according to the AP—to replace Berman. Craig Carpenito, the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, will take over in the interim starting on July 3.
Like Effie White in Dreamgirls, Berman pushed back against his replacements. He disagrees with all of this, and he is telling you—he’s not going!! At least not yet.
“I will step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate,” Berman’s statement reads. “Until then, our investigations will move forward without delay or interruption.”
What a fucking mess! And it’s probably only going to get worse from here. As The New York Times put it in its coverage Friday night, Berman’s ousting is “setting up an extraordinary standoff over the independence of law enforcement and the president’s purge of officials he views as disloyal.” Better abolish all of it just to be safe!
Update (3:40 p.m.): In a statement released literally minutes after I published this blog, Barr announced that Trump had fired Berman on account of the “public spectacle” he created last night—as if Barr isn’t the biggest stunt queen in all of this.
“I was surprised and quite disappointed by the press statement you released last night,” reads Barr’s latest statement. “Unfortunately, with your statement 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.”
Read the full statement below, per BuzzFeed News reporter Zoe Tillman.