U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoff Berman announces a $15 million reward for information leading to arrest and conviction of Nicolas Maduro on March 26, 2020. (U.S. Attorney’s Office)

U.S. Attorney for SDNY Berman Digs in as Barr Tries to Fire Him by Press Release

Attorney General Bill Barr announced in a Friday night statement that U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman was “stepping down.”

But Berman shot back in a statement of his own that he learned of the move to force him out via press release, and said he has “no intention of resigning.”

Multiple cases tied to associates of President Trump have come through SDNY, including Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, Michael Cohen and former Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.). The office has also reportedly been investigating Rudy Giuliani’s business dealings.

Barr’s statement on Berman came at the end of an announcement that chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission Jay Clayton, whose experience is in civil law, was being nominated for the SDNY job. “His management experience and expertise in financial regulation give him an ideal background to lead the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and he will be a worthy successor to the many historic figures who have held that post,” Barr said.

Barr added that U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Craig Carpenito would serve concurrently as acting U.S. attorney for SDNY while Clayton’s nomination proceeded through the Senate.

Carpenito would assume that role July 3, the attorney general said.

“Finally, I thank Geoffrey Berman, who is stepping down after two-and-a-half years of service as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York,” Barr concluded. “With tenacity and savvy, Geoff has done an excellent job leading one of our nation’s most significant U.S. Attorney’s Offices, achieving many successes on consequential civil and criminal matters. I appreciate his service to the Department of Justice and our nation, and I wish him well in the future.”

But Berman quickly released a statement of his own on the SDNY website and Twitter account.

“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,” he added. “I cherish every day that I work with the men and women of this Office to pursue justice without fear or favor – and intend to ensure that this Office’s important cases continue unimpeded.”

As Trump wanted to fire the SDNY leader, Berman was reportedly offered other jobs in the Justice Department by Barr but refused. Berman was named the interim head of SDNY in 2018; former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was fired from SDNY in 2017. Since Trump never nominated anyone to the role, Berman was appointed to his post by the district court — and serves until the vacancy is filled.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) announced that his committee would hold a hearing on the issue Wednesday.

We welcome Mr. Berman’s testimony and will invite him to testify,” Nadler tweeted.

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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