U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman is leaving as head of the powerful Southern District of New York, Attorney General William Barr announced late Friday. The Manhattan office is one of the nation’s mightiest districts, trying major cases against the mobsters, terrorists — and allies of President Donald Trump, including his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
But Berman issued his own statement following Barr’s announcement, saying that he has “no intention of resigning my position.” Berman said the first he learned that he was “stepping down” was from Barr’s press release. He vowed that he will stay and to “important cases” will continue “unimpeded.”
Barr’s announcement Friday came just days after allegations emerged in a book by Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton that the president promised to Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdoğan that he would “take care of” a Southern District probe into the Turkish Halkbank to curry favor with Turkey’s leader.
Berman’s office is also investigating Trump’s current personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, for contributions and his work in Ukraine to aid Trump’s re-election campaign, and had filed child sex trafficking charges against Trump’s one-time friend Jeffrey Epstein, who was found dead in his jail cell last summer.
A source told HuffPost that the departure was unimaginable. Berman, the source said, had just sent a video message to the staff Thursday about the use of personal protective gear in the office.
Barr said in his statement that Trump has nominated the current chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Jay Clayton — who has no experience as a prosecutor — to replace him.
Clayton provided legal services to Deutsche Bank — Trump’s largest lender — while he was a partner at the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell before heading up the SEC. SDNY was among a group of federal investigative offices that were reportedly investigating whether Deutsche Bank had complied with anti-money laundering laws, noted CNBC.
Berman declared in his statement that he would not leave until the Senate confirms a replacement.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) tweeted after the news Friday that “America is right to expect the worst of Bill Barr.” He said his committee is addressing Barr’s leadership in a previously scheduled hearing Wednesday. “We welcome Mr. Berman’s testimony and will invite him to testify,” he added.
Trump has appointed the current U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, Craig Carpenito, to serve as the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York while the Senate considers the nomination of Clayton.