THE NEUTRAL ZONE
Democrats expressed hope Sunday that Geoffrey Berman will testify before the House on Wednesday. Berman was ousted from his post as U.S. Attorney for southern New York over the weekend following back-and-forth between Berman and Attorney General William Barr. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), said, “I think [Berman] has a lot to say about the continuing pattern of chaos, crisis and corruption that we have seen from the Trump administration.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), stated, “The decision by President Trump to remove Mr. Berman as acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York falls within the president’s power to appoint or remove U.S. Attorneys.” Martin S. Lederman, a Georgetown University law professor who served in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in the Obama administration, stated on Friday before Berman’s resignation that “it’s probably the case that Trump, but not Barr, would have to remove Berman and take the political responsibility for doing so.” In addition, 28 U.S. Code § 541 states that “each United States attorney is subject to removal by the President,” a ruling supported in a 1979 memorandum.
On Friday, Barr announced in a press release that Jay Claton, current Chairman of the Securities and Exchanges Commission, was being nominated to serve as the next United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Berman responded an hour later, stating, “I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning. […] I will step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate.” Barr subsequently stated that he was “quite disappointed” with Berman’s statement and added that President Trump had removed him. President Trump later told reporters that he was not involved in the situation. Berman announced his resignation soon after, adding that he will be replaced by Deputy United States Attorney Audrey Strauss.
At his weekly press conference, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “I am calling for a three-pronged investigation that involves three entities: First, the Judiciary Committee, second, the Office of Professional Responsibility at DOJ and third, the Inspector General’s Office at DOJ.” He questioned whether Berman’s removal stemmed from previous investigations into President Trump associates such as Micheal Cohen, a state-owned bank in Turkey, and Rudolph Giuliani. In an open letter, more than 130 former Manhattan federal prosecutors condemned Berman’s firing as “an attack on the concept that investigations should be conducted in a nonpartisan manner.”
Trump’s Latest Firing May Have Violated Four Core Values Of American Democracy – FiveThirtyEight – 6/21/2020
The most alarming potential explanation of what happened to Berman is that Barr tried to fire him specifically for investigating Giuliani. A milder version may be that the Southern District, under Berman’s leadership, demonstrated that it did not care about Trump’s preferences and would investigate whichever crimes it deemed important, no matter the potential ramifications for Trump.
Dems seize on US attorney ouster to pursue new probes, hearings – Fox News – 6/22/2020
Top congressional Democrats are citing the ouster of the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York following a Friday-night standoff in calls for new probes and hearings concerning President Trump’s Justice Department. […] Nadler’s comments come just days after he issued subpoenas for Justice Department officials Aaron S.J. Zelinsky and John W. Elias, who had filed complaints about the “unprecedented politicization” at the DOJ under Barr’s leadership.
Ousted US attorney Berman refused to sign Justice Department letter criticizing New York’s Covid restrictions – CNN Politics – 6/22/2020
Geoffrey Berman, the federal prosecutor ousted over the weekend by the Trump administration, recently refused to sign a letter from the Justice Department that criticized New York City’s coronavirus restrictions that affect religious institutions, a person briefed on the matter said. Attorney General William Barr wasn’t aware of the dispute, and it had nothing to do with the ouster of Berman, the person said. The letter was sent Friday from the Justice Department.
Giuliani: ‘No Evidence’ of Southern District of New York Investigation — ‘Malicious Story’ – Breitbart – 6/21/2020
Giuliani told John Catsimatidis, host of New York AM 770 radio’s “The Cats Roundtable,” on Sunday that despite reports saying otherwise, he has “no evidence” that he is under investigation. He called the report a “malicious story” and defended Trump’s removal of Berman.
Catherine Herridge on Twitter, 6/22/2020: #Berman Democrats want an investigation. Republicans say the President + AG acted within their authority. A DOJ official says the AG’s decision to fire US attorney Geoffrey Berman was not related to any investigation Berman was overseeing. WATCH: @ClareHymes22 @CBSNews
Senator Mazie Hirono on Twitter, 6/22/2020: When you see the pattern of corrupt behavior by @realDonaldTrump and people close to him like AG Barr, it’s clear it’s all in the service of re-electing Donald Trump. Firing Geoffrey Berman, spreading lies about mail-in ballots – the President is more unhinged than ever before.
Debra J. Saunders on Twitter, 6/22/2020: The Berman Resistance: The grandstanding former U.S. Attorney is no political martyr. @WSJ editorial: “In other words, it’s your average Trump melodrama.”
Kellan Howell on Twitter, 6/22/2020: @PressSec says “no investigation will be affected” by Berman’s firing. The SDNY is currently investigating Rudy Giuliani’s business dealings and has issued indictments against Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.
America First on Twitter, 6/22/2020: An endorsement from James Comey reinforces why President Trump and AG Barr was correct to fire Berman.