Barr says US attorney who refused to resign is now fired — but this is all far from over
On Friday night, Attorney General William Barr issued a statement saying that the U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffry Berman, had resigned. That was a lie. Not only had Berman not resigned, he had told Barr repeatedly that he would not resign, and had turned down other roles at the Department of Justice. So, about an hour after Barr’s statement, Berman issued a statement of his own, telling Barr to stuff it. Actually, Berman stated that he had been “appointed by the Judges of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York” and that he would only step down “when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate." Berman is in the middle of a number of highly sensitive investigations, including an ongoing investigation of Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani and his associates in Trump’s Ukraine scandal. So his removal clearly signals that Barr is, once again, placing Trump’s desires far ahead of such arcane ideas as justice, or the nation.
On Saturday afternoon, Barr produced a new statement. He’s given up the pretense that Berman has resigned. Instead Barr says, “I have asked the president to remove you as of today, and he has done so.” According to Barr, this makes assistant U. S. Attorney Audrey Strauss the new acting U. S. Attorney, but considering Barr’s knowledge and application of the law, odds are he’s simply lying again. Hilariously, Barr claims there’s no danger of there being an issue with ongoing cases because … the inspector general will see to that. As everyone knows, Trump and Barr just respect the hell out of inspectors general.
Bonus: Chuck Schumer also has his own statement on this whole sorry affair.
Saturday, Jun 20, 2020 · 6:07:07 PM Eastern Daylight Time · Jen Hayden
SDNY’s Geoffrey Berman has resigned. Perhaps he’ll have time to testify to Congress now.
#GeoffreyBerman stepping aside for his deputy to step in. Developing https://t.co/xG9Ml9cq8o— Michael Holmes (@Michael Holmes) 1592690620
In his letter, Barr starts off by telling Berman how “disappointed” he is that the U. S. attorney chose “to make a public spectacle” out of Barr’s attempt to slip through this change to a key position late on a Friday evening. Which … is extremely true. Because Barr definitely did not want anyone paying any attention to this at all.
Barr cites a pair of cases claiming that they show Trump can throw him out of the office at any time. Which is probably true. Except that it may be considerably less clear that Berman has to vacate in advance of a new U. S. attorney making it past the Senate.
More importantly, Barr’s previous note didn’t say that Berman was fired. It said he had resigned. The second note claims that Barr and Berman were having “discussions” about Berman moving to another role. Which underlines the fact that Barr is a liar, and also shows just how awful he is at every aspect of this. Barr offered Berman something else. Berman turned him down. Barr then said that Berman had resigned. Berman said, correctly, that he had not. Barr then chided Berman for telling the truth. That’s Saturday at the Barr DOJ.
Barr’s statement gives Berman a deadline of … pretty much right now, to clear out of his office. Oddly, this note from Barr completely leaves out the idea included in the first note that the New Jersey U. S. Attorney would step into the acting role. Which almost makes it seem like that attorney might have begged out of this farce.
But even before he gets to waggling his finger at Berman, Barr’s letter opens by talking about his desire to appoint “a distinguished New York lawyer, Jay Clayton” to take Berman’s place. Clayton is a corporate lawyer without a minute of courtroom experience. He’s never ever prosecuted a case in his life. The idea that someone who hasn’t so much as worked in traffic court should take over a role that involves dealing with some of the most complex financial crimes and extensive criminal conspiracies on the planet is beyond ridiculous. So ridiculous that even Lindsey Graham chimed in to say he’s not running that flag up for a salute unless Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand give their fellow New Yorker the traditional “blue slip.”
Which seems unlikely. Because Schumer has already fired a shot himself.
Forty-seven years ago, Elliott Richardson had the courage to say no to a gross abuse of presidential power. Jay Clayton has a similar choice today: He can allow himself to be used in the brazen Trump-Barr scheme to interfere in investigations by the U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, or he can stand up to corruption, withdraw his name from consideration, and save his own reputation from overnight ruin.
Yeah, boy. And since Barr suddenly has so much faith in the DOJ’s inspector general, that’ll work out great, because Schumer has also called for an investigation headed by the IG and Office of Professional Responsibility.
In other news, popcorn futures are up 1000%.
Saturday, Jun 20, 2020 · 4:12:03 PM Eastern Daylight Time · Mark Sumner
On the latest Holy F#ck update …
President Trump just told reporters at the White House that he's "not involved" with the firing of US Attorney Berm… https://t.co/uKmT1E7PvQ— Hunter Walker (@Hunter Walker) 1592683502
So … if Trump didn’t fire Berman, then Barr was lying about Berman being fired and … he’s not fired?
Popcorn ^ 2000%
Saturday, Jun 20, 2020 · 4:21:43 PM Eastern Daylight Time · Mark Sumner
And Trump is still piling on the denials as he speaks to reporters.
"That's all up to the Attorney General," Trump said, distancing himself from the decision to fire SDNY USA Berman.… https://t.co/6dSGTvPwkS— Steven Portnoy (@Steven Portnoy) 1592683818
Barr has put Trump in the position where he has to admit that he’s personally firing Berman, or Berman gets to stay. But Trump won’t do that.
Excuse me. I have butter to melt.