Can Trump fire and replace US Attorney for SDNY?

The attempt to fire a strong New York attorney general appears to be the latest step to protect Trump

The announcement by Attorney General William Barr to replace Jeffrey Berman of the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District in New York renewed the debate about the extent to which Barr acted in the interests of President Donald Trump rather than the interests of the nation. Berman’s office, which refuses to resign, is leading an investigation of Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani and his associates, and has also accused a Turkish state-owned company involved in the issue of breaching sanctions on Iran raised by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with Trump. .

Dozens of former Justice Department officials have already invited Barr to resign over a series of interventions that appear to be specifically designed for Trump politically. Meanwhile, Berman’s refusal to go quietly sparked a new crisis and a government stand-off for the already faltering administration struggling for a pandemic, a subsequent economic crisis and a national account based on race.

Two sources told CNN Kevin Liptak that the president had been considering removing Berman for two years and believed that the investigation of Giuliani was an attempt to harm him politically. But Friday night’s drama sparked a new curiosity about why Bar and Trump suddenly keen to topple Berman – the Trump donor installed by the Trump administration in 2018 – less than five months before the election.

“I issued a statement last night, I have nothing to add to this morning. I am here to do my job,” Berman said, before he entered his office in downtown New York on Saturday morning, to reporters.

Essentially, the episode reveals the willingness of the authoritarian impulse, who has consistently worked to challenge the independence of the judicial system and sought to compel him to act in his personal interests, to act with impunity in the wake of the Senate. Fellow Republicans acquitted of exclusion from abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

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In recent weeks, Barr has ordered the release of protesters from Lafayette Square in Washington minutes before the president’s controversial photo was taken in the church. His administration abandoned the trial of Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn – who had twice confessed to lying to the FBI – and tried to downgrade the recommendation of the ruling to political reformer Roger Stone, another prominent Trump aide. A year ago, Barr might have saved Trump’s presidency by creating the impression of Special Adviser Robert Mueller’s report in a manner favorable to Trump – before anyone could read the report.

Meanwhile, the president destroyed the FBI’s High Command and Justice Department in a politically motivated manner. More recently, he has threatened to send regular forces into the streets to counter anti-racist demonstrations. He conducted a purge against the inspectors general responsible for independent oversight of government departments.

Berman’s controversy came as the president began his re-election campaign for 2020 at a speedy pace with a rally on Saturday night in Oklahoma, before a large crowd defied the CDC’s recommendations for stopping the epidemic.

Friday night massacre?

The unusual events about Berman’s fate were the latest disturbing resonance of Richard Nixon’s previous “massacre of the night” when the then-chief of state ordered the chief prosecutor’s dismissal of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox at the height of the Watergate scandal.

Late on Friday evening – the traditional dumping ground of controversial news stories – Barr issued a press release announcing Berman’s sudden resignation that he said would be replaced by Jay Clayton, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who had never served the public prosecutor.

Barr’s move, of its own accord, was shocking because the Southern District of New York is one of the most prestigious and independent public prosecution offices that usually address highly sensitive and politically sensitive financial issues and terrorism.

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The fact that SDNY has also investigated and convicted President Michael Cohen’s personal lawyer and is currently looking into Giuliani’s financial and commercial affairs immediately raises suspicion of conflict of interest and political interference as well as new scrutiny of Barr’s behavior and motivations. In addition to the plot, Giuliani was the Federal Supreme Prosecutor of New York during the 1980s.

The Federal Prosecutor’s Office in New York is also working on a number of cases that Mueller referred to him when he ended his investigation of whether the Trump campaign had knowingly cooperated with the meddling process in Russian elections. She described the president as “Individual-1” in her case against Cohen, saying he had directed the campaign financing crimes related to paying silent money to many women who said they had ties to Trump.

The attempt to shoot Berman has sparked yet another fire in Washington with House Speaker Judge Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, immediately announced Wednesday’s hearing and Berman’s invitation to testify.

“America is right to expect the worst of what happened to Bill Barr, who has repeatedly interfered in criminal investigations on Trump’s behalf,” Nadler said in a statement.

CNN’s legal analyst, Laura Coates, said late on Friday that if it seemed as if Bar was easing procedures that would “undermine relevance … or go ahead with any cases, it adds another record of fire to people who are burning.” Regarding their problems with this Attorney General, and his inability to enhance the capacity of prosecutors and professionals to do their work or truly contribute to it. “

Berman refuses to go

The already massive confrontation erupted more when Berman, in a stunning move, issued his late-night statement and criticized Barr for his decision to overthrow him and refused to go, arguing that since he was technically appointed by a panel of judges on the basis of acting in 2018, Barr has no Force to force him out and he will continue to serve.
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“I learned in a press statement issued by the Attorney General tonight that I” resigned “from the position of the United States Attorney General. I have not resigned, nor do I intend to resign, from my post, which was appointed by the US judges and Berman told the District Court of the States of the Southern District of New York.”

“I will resign when the Senate-appointed candidate is confirmed by the Senate. Until then, our investigations will proceed without delay or interruption,” he said. The chances of a new American lawyer for the Southern District in New York well before the elections are slim, and there is a possibility of legal battles over Berman’s term.

“I think the president will have a great difficulty in forcing Mr. Berman to leave his post because he came in strange circumstances,” said CNN’s legal analyst Paul Callan.

Berman’s reference to those investigations immediately asked a question whether he was talking specifically about the public work of his department or about any cases that might specifically concern Bar and Trump.

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His challenge left the next steps unclear, but at the very least he talked about the brilliant chaos in Trump’s Justice Ministry that has intensified since Barr took office.

CNN reported escalating tensions between Washington and the Berman office, including in some cases including the accusation of the Turkish bank Halkbank. In his new book, former National Security Adviser John Bolton said that Trump told the powerful Turkish man that he would take care of “matters” when he had replaced New York prosecutors with his people. The Ministry of Justice and Berman did raise a file to the court Against the Turkish bank in October 2019.

Sources said that the administration discussed replacing Berman with Ed Ocalagan, a senior official last fall, but the move was suspended after accusing fellow Attorney General Giuliani Lev Parnas and Igor Fromman.

Erica Orden of CNN, Evan Perez, Cara Scanel and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

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