How Barr's 'enormous blind spot' led to Trump's 'botched' firing of SDNY prosecutor — and backed the president into a corner: NYT reporter
New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman on Sunday broke down the Trump administration’s “botched” firing of Geoffrey Berman, telling CNN’s John King that Attorney General Bill Barr’s “enormous blind spot when it comes to politics” put Donald Trump in jeopardy.
Berman, the former U.S. attorney for the Souther District of New York who oversaw the prosecution of Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen, resigned from his post Saturday following a public standoff with Barr. On Friday, Berman contradicted Barr after the attorney general claimed he “stepped down” from his position following a meeting at a Manhattan hotel.
"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," Berman said Friday.
In a letter to Berman on Saturday, Barr informed Berman that Trump fired him at the AG’s request.
"Unfortunately, with your statement of last night, you have chosen public spectacle over public service," Barr wrote. "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.”
Trump on Saturday claimed he was “not involved” in Berman’s firing.
Discussing the public spectacle on Sunday, Haberman explained that Trump has long-considered firing Berman.
“The president has been talking for a long time to a small group of advisers — not everybody who walks into the Oval Office — about his dissatisfaction with Geoffrey Berman," Haberman said. "Geoffrey Berman led the prosecution into Michael Cohen, his office was involved in the searches … back in April 2018, and since then, the president has been frustrated with him.”
“The timing still remains something of a mystery,” Haberman continued. “Also why the president yesterday denied he had something to do with this when everybody knows he has something to do with this and has been candid with a lot of advisers about it. Whether he faces political blowback or whether the country has become numb to him making these kinds of moves, we're going to find out.”
“The silence from Republicans is notable,” she added.
King later asked Haberman what provoked Trump’s decision to force Berman out.
“We don't know yet, John, and I’m really loath to speculate as you know about things that are still evolving,” Haberman said. “This is a pretty small group of people who were involved in this decision in the first place, to your point, the way this was done was so botched, Geoffrey Berman was able to say, ‘No, I’m not leaving’ and essentially make sure that the person he wanted to lead the office is still leading the office.”
Haberman pointed out that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, signed off on Berman’s preferred replacement in a blow to Barr. Haberman noted the Republican senator “was not particularly happy with how things had gone the previous day.”
“I think we'll learn a lot more in the coming days,” Haberman said. “The level of alarm by the president and some of his advisers yesterday at how much blowback they were getting is shocking, considering how many times this president has walked up to a third rail. but there was an enormous amount of surprise at how poorly this went. I'll say one thing, this is a real reminder that whatever skills Bill Barr’s defenders and admirers believe he has, he just has an enormous blind spot when it comes to politics.”
“That he did not try harder to say to the president this will end poorly, he did not say to the president, this is not a prosecutor who i can bargain with to get him to take a different job, is on him,” she said.
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