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20 Jun, 2020 20:15

DoJ disarray: NY prosecutor Berman resigns after standoff with AG Barr as Trump tries to distance from row

DoJ disarray: NY prosecutor Berman resigns after standoff with AG Barr as Trump tries to distance from row

NY prosecutor Geoffrey Berman has agreed to resign after his confrontation with Attorney General Bill Barr shook the Department of Justice. President Donald Trump said he was not involved after Barr claimed he had his backing.

Berman said he would step down Saturday afternoon after Barr promised to appoint his deputy to take over the job until a permanent replacement can be installed.

"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," Berman said in a statement that put an end to almost 24 hours long roller-coaster.

Barr revealed on Friday evening that Berman  was stepping down. The Manhattan prosecutor, who was known for prosecuting Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and investigating Rudy Giuliani, one of the president’s current lawyers, replied he would stay in his office until a "presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate."

Barr tried to put more pressure.

“I have asked the President to remove you as of today, and he has done so,” Barr wrote to Berman in a letter obtained by journalists. 

A further wrinkle to the story is that Trump told reporters he was “not involved” in Berman’s firing.

"That's [Barr’s] department, not my department. But we have a very capable attorney general so that's really up to him. I'm not involved,” the president said on the South Lawn before departing for his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The odd sequence of events surrounding Berman, Barr, and Trump has left people mostly scratching their heads and trying to figure out if the prosecutor is actually fired and if so, under whose authority. 

Berman has meanwhile earned favor with many of Trump and Barr's political rivals who have urged him to remain in his position. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-New York), the head of the Judiciary Committee even invited the prosecutor to testify at a Wednesday hearing on Barr's actions as attorney general.

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