US Attorney Says He Has No Plans to Resign After DOJ Announces He’s ‘Stepping Down’

Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks during a news conference in New York in 2019. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) — President Donald Trump late Friday night nominated a new U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, but the powerful prosecutor who currently holds the job and has been investigating people close to Trump said he does not plan to leave the post.

In a late-night statement, Attorney General William Barr said Geoffrey Berman, who has served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York since 2018, was “stepping down.” At the same time, Trump announced he was nominating Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton to take over the position.

Berman said in a statement of his own that he only learned of his purportedly impending departure from Barr’s press release.

“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,” Berman said in a statement. “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.”

In early 2018, Berman was chosen to lead the office for an interim period of 120 days. Under federal law, the judges on the federal court in a district may appoint a U.S. attorney after that interim period ends and until the Senate confirms a replacement, and the judges on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York did just that for Berman in April 2018.

With Berman at the helm, the office launched an investigation into Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, as well as Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, associates of Giuliani’s who helped on the investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden that was at the heart of Trump’s impeachment.

The office also investigated and prosecuted Trump’s longtime fixer Michael Cohen, but Berman was recused from the case.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, raised concerns Friday night that Berman’s dismissal was not for legitimate reasons.

“This late Friday night dismissal reeks of potential corruption of the legal process,” Schumer said in a statement. “What is angering President Trump? A previous action by this U.S. attorney or one that is ongoing?” 

Clayton, who would take Berman’s job, has been chair of the SEC since 2017 and previously worked as a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell. Craig Carpenito, who works as the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, will take over for Berman in an acting capacity starting July 3, Barr said. 

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