Update: U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said he would step down on Saturday night. [See his statement below.]
Late Friday evening, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr announced the resignation of Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York in Lower Manhattan. In a statement, Barr thanked Berman for his service after noting he was “stepping down.”
Only Berman--who's overseen the investigations of child predator Jeffrey Epstein, and is currently probing former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who's now President Donald Trump's personal attorney -- announced he didn't even tender his resignation, adding a greater layer of intrigue.
“I learned in a press release from the Attorney General tonight that I was ‘stepping down’ as United States Attorney," said Berman in a statement. "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."
The New York Times reported that after Berman refused to hand in his resignation, Barr attempted to fire him.
Berman's office is currently investigating how the president paid for his inaugural celebrations, business dealings by Trump's son-in-law and special advisor, Jared Kushner, and billions of dollars in loans Trump's company accepted from Deutsche Bank. Giuliani is reportedly being investigated by Berman's office to determine if he violated lobbying laws by functioning as Trump's middle man in Ukraine.
In his press release, Barr said that the president was seeking to nominate Jay Clayton, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which the New York Times reported "has never served as a prosecutor." Trump has appointed Craig Carpenito, who currently serves as the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, to temporarily succeed Berman until Clayton is confirmed. Carpenito will start on July 3rd.
The Times also noted that Trump had been irked by Berman for prosecuting Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who has since been released from prison to serve the remainder of his time at home.
The news left Berman's predecessor, Preet Bharara--who was fired by former Attorney General Jess Sessions (also fired by Trump)--wondering: "Why does a president get rid of his own hand-picked US Attorney in [Southern District of New York] on a Friday night, less than 5 months before the election?"
Last night, Bharara, who serves as a legal analyst for CNN and was fired by Trump, told the network's Don Lemon that the sudden announcement on Berman was a "highly irregular thing to do ... when there are all sorts of investigations swirling around."
The news also stunned Rep. Jerrold Nadler of Manhattan, who tweeted early Saturday morning that he's planning to invite Berman to a House Judiciary Committee hearing next Wednesday examining Barr.
In his statement, Berman mentioned that the investigations his office is currently conducting will "move forward without delay or interruption."
Update 4 p.m.: A report by the Washington Post says Barr has fired the Berman, saying Berman has chosen "public spectacle" over helping the smooth transition. Barr had cited a 1979 doctrine issued by the U.S. Justice Department under the administration of former President Jimmy Carter allows presidents to fire U.S. attorneys, court-appointed or not. The constitutionality of the doctrine, however, has never gone before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Trump added to the confusion Saturday, telling reporters that he is "not involved" in the matter.
Update: Berman issued a statement on Saturday night saying he would leave office:
“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.”