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President Trump fires US attorney who oversaw cases of Trump allies

FILE - In this Oct. 26, 2018, file photo, Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington. Berman, who oversaw key prosecutions of allies of President Donald Trump and an investigation into Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, is resigning. Attorney General William Barr said Friday, June 19, 2020, that Trump intends to nominate Jay Clayton, the chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to the post. Photo: AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File. FILE - In this Oct. 26, 2018, file photo, Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington. Berman, who oversaw key prosecutions of allies of President Donald Trump and an investigation into Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, is resigning. Attorney General William Barr said Friday, June 19, 2020, that Trump intends to nominate Jay Clayton, the chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to the post.

ABC News
Updated: June 19, 2020 10:28 PM
Created: June 19, 2020 10:13 PM

President Donald Trump has fired Geoffrey Berman as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, sources familiar with the decision told ABC News.

The surprise move comes two years into a tenure that included the prosecution of Michael Cohen, Jeffrey Epstein and two associates of Rudy Giuliani.

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The decision was delivered personally by U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who a Justice Department official told ABC News offered Berman other positions, including head of the Civil Division at Main Justice.

He declined the offer and was subsequently fired and Craig Carpenito, the U.S. attorney in New Jersey, was named to lead the office on an interim basis.

Berman issued a statement late Friday saying he had no intention of taking the firing in stride.

"I learned in a press release from the Attorney General tonight that I was 'stepping down' as United States Attorney," he 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 continued. "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."

Trump intends to nominate Jay Clayton of the Securities and Exchange Commission to replace Berman.

"The attorney general has known Jay Clayton for years and holds him in high regard," a Justice Department official told ABC News. "Jay was getting ready to leave the administration and go back to New York. He expressed interest in SDNY. The attorney general thought it was a good idea. He offered Berman other positions, including head of the Civil Division at Main Justice. Berman declined. That's that."

Berman, whose tenure included several politically sensitive investigations, like the case against Trump's former personal attorney, Cohen, will step down from the office effective July 3.

Berman's firing is likely to send a shockwave through Washington, as it comes ahead of the release of former national security adviser John Bolton's book, in which Bolton details an exchange that Trump had with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the Southern District.

According to Bolton, after Erdogan handed Trump a memo saying that a Turkish firm under investigation by SDNY was innocent, Trump told Erdogan, "he would take care of things, explaining that the Southern District prosecutors were not his people, but were Obama people, a problem that would be fixed when they were replaced by his people."

Additionally, as ABC News has previously reported -- Berman's office is believed to still be actively investigating the president's personal attorney, Giuliani, related to his contacts with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman -- two central characters in the Ukraine impeachment scandal.


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