The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey S. Berman, is refusing to resign despite Attorney General Barr announcing that he was.
Berman is currently investigating several presidential associates, including close aide Rudy Giuliani. Barr gave no reason for Berman’s ouster in the release announcing the move. He named the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Jay Clayton, as Berman’s replacement.
Berman doesn’t have a leg to stand on. But he’s trying really hard.
“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,” he said in a statement late Friday night.
“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. 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.”
It’s a novel reason to defy the AG because he lacks Senate confirmation. It’s also ludicrous. William Barr has all the power and authority granted the attorney general, and that includes the ability to fire employees of the Justice Department.
Berman may have been hired by the judges but he’s not working for them. He’s working for the people of the United States and the Justice Department. He is in clear violation of the law and can be removed for that reason alone.
A senior Justice Department official said the department was pressing forward with its plans and will have Craig Carpenito, the U.S. attorney in New Jersey, take over the office temporarily, starting on July 3. The official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the issue and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.
Democrats have repeatedly accused Trump’s Justice Department of political interference, and those concerns have also been pervasive among some rank and file officials in the agency. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said his committee was inviting Berman to testify next week.
Will Berman be a martyr and bar the door to Carpenito’s entrance, forcing the marshalls to physically remove him? This isn’t likely given he’s hanging his hat on a dubious technicality. But it would make great television and he’d be celebrated by Democrats everywhere.
The press didn’t bat an eyelash when Obama AG Eric Holder removed several U.S. prosecutors from their positions for no reason. Perhaps it’s time for every incoming president to “clean house” in the federal judiciary and replace all prosecutors. The vaunted “independent judiciary” is a mirage anyway.