The top federal prosecutor in Manhattan who had investigated several of Donald Trump’s associates and his company’s business dealings was fired by the president, Attorney General William Barr said in a letter.
On Friday, Barr announced that Berman was “stepping down.” Just hours later, Berman denied the claim in a statement, saying he only learned of the supposed resignation through Barr’s press release.
“I learned in a press release from the Attorney General tonight that I was ‘stepping down’ as United States Attorney. I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position,” Berman said Friday.
In his announcement of the firing, Barr claimed Berman was trying to create a “public spectacle.”
“Unfortunately, with your statement of last night, you have chosen public spectacle over public service,” Barr said in a statement Saturday. “Because you have declared that you have no intention of resigning, I have asked the President to remove you as of today, and he has done so.”
Barr’s letter to Berman essentially conceded his public statement had misled the public, writing that “While we advised the public that you would leave the U.S. Attorney’s office in two weeks, I still hoped that your departure could be amicable.”
Barr also wrote that he had authorized DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz to review claims of improper influence on ongoing cases.
Berman was investigating Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, for his work in Ukraine to aid Trump’s reelection campaign.
In his own statement, Berman said he would be leaving his position “effective immediately.”
Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss will now become the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. That’s a change from Barr’s original plan, which was to appoint the U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey to the position on an acting basis. Berman said in his statement that Strauss is the “smartest, most principled, and effective lawyer with whom I have ever had the privilege of working.”
The replacement of Berman came about very quickly. A source told HuffPost that Berman had sent a message to employees about COVID-19 safety precautions on Thursday.
Despite Barr’s letter specifically saying he was acting under the orders of the president, Trump told reporters outside the White House Saturday afternoon that he was “not involved” in the decision.
“That’s [Barr’s] department, not my department,” Trump said. “So that’s really up to him, I’m not involved.”