Photo Courtesy of Bloomberg
By: Jeremy Perillo
In the recent weeks following President Donald Trump’s termination of various departmental Inspector Generals, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY), Geoffrey Berman, was dismissed by Attorney General William Barr, and subsequently fired by the president. Berman, a top New York attorney, has investigated and prosecuted various Trump allies, and his office is currently investigating Trump’s associate Rudy Giuliani.
Compared to other firings that have happened throughout Trump’s presidency, Berman did not go quietly. The news broke late Friday night when Barr announced Berman was stepping down from his position, and the current Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Jay Clayton, would succeed him. Clayton is a close ally to Trump and has no prosecutorial experience.
Not long after Barr’s statement was released, Berman followed suit with a response.
“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.”
The following day, Barr responded to Berman’s statement with a poignant announcement that Trump had indeed fired him.
“Unfortunately, with your statement of last night, you have chosen public spectacle over public service,” Barr said. “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.”
Despite earlier plans to appoint Trump allies into the position, the Deputy U.S. Attorney of the SDNY, Audrey Strauss, was picked to become the acting U.S. Attorney following Berman.
Given the prevalence of the SDNY’s relationship with current and former Trump associates under investigation, many have claimed this was an act to protect the President. In the upcoming week of July 6, Berman is expected to testify in a closed-door hearing before the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee. Democrats have spoken out against the firing, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has even mentioned the possibility of impeachment proceedings against the Attorney General.
Val Demings (D-FL), one of the impeachment managers against Trump and a possible contender for Joe Biden’s vice presidential pick, spoke out against Berman’s dismissal.
“The President has doubled down on his fixer’s obstruction of investigations into him and his allies,” Demings said. “It is clear that nothing will restrain his corruption. No one is above the law. The American people will have their say.”
As election day creeps closer and closer, the ever-evolving controversies surrounding Trump’s Justice Department will no doubt make an appearance as the Biden campaign looks for ammo against the incumbent.