Manhattan US attorney refuses to resign despite DOJ ouster

The Justice Department abruptly announced late Friday night that it would replace the U.S. attorney in Manhattan who oversaw probes into several allies of President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Tucker Carlson ratchets up criticism of Duckworth, calls her a 'coward' Trump on Confederate flag: 'It's freedom of speech' MORE, though the federal prosecutor said he had no plans to resign.

The Justice Department said in a press release that it is replacing Geoffrey Berman, the powerful prosecutor for the Southern District of New York whose office ran the probe that sent Trump's former personal lawyer Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenBarr to testify in House oversight hearing next month Stone received 'favorable treatment' because of relationship with Trump, former prosecutor will testify Nadler to subpoena AG Barr over Berman firing MORE to prison and is investigating the president's current personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiOusted Manhattan US Attorney Berman to testify before House next week Sunday shows preview: With coronavirus cases surging, lawmakers and health officials weigh in Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down MORE.

"I thank Geoffrey Berman, who is stepping down after two-and-a-half years of service as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. With tenacity and savvy, Geoff has done an excellent job leading one of our nation’s most significant U.S. Attorney’s Offices, achieving many successes on consequential civil and criminal matters," said Attorney General William BarrBill BarrThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: DC's Bowser says protesters and nation were 'assaulted' in front of Lafayette Square last month; Brazil's Bolsonaro, noted virus skeptic, tests positive for COVID-19 FBI Director Wray warns of Chinese hacking, espionage threats against American companies Executing four white men won't erase death penalty racism MORE.

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However, Berman pushed back and said he will not "step down" until a "presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate," according to a statement from his office. He also said he found out he was being replaced when he read the Justice Department's press release.

"I learned in a press release from the Attorney General tonight that I was 'stepping down' as United States Attorney," the statement reads. "I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position. ... 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." 

 

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Barr, who did not provide a reason as to why Berman was being replaced, said that Jay Clayton, the current chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, would be nominated for the position. Craig Carpenito, currently the U.S. attorney in New Jersey, will fill Berman’s role in an acting capacity effective July 3.

The replacement is likely to spark further claims from Democrats in Washington that the president is seeking to politicize the Justice Department and remove figures who are critical of him or investigating people in his orbit. 

Berman’s office has prosecuted several Trump associates, including Cohen, who pleaded guilty to tax, bank and campaign finance crimes. Berman recused himself from directly overseeing Cohen’s case for reasons that were never made clear. 

Federal prosecutors in Berman’s office are also reportedly investigating if Giuliani, who is known to have a number of associates abroad, failed to register with the government as a foreign agent.

Beyond Cohen and Giuliani, Berman’s office also subpoenaed Trump’s inaugural committee over an investigation into potential illegal contributions from foreigners and charged former Rep. Chris CollinsChristopher (Chris) Carl CollinsNY Republican Chris Jacobs wins special election to replace Chris Collins 5 things to watch in Tuesday's primaries Trump drags mild-mannered regulator into political firefight MORE (R-N.Y.), a Trump ally, with insider trading. 

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Berman was appointed to his role in January 2018 to replace former U.S. Attorney Preet BhararaPreetinder (Preet) Singh BhararaPush to oust Manhattan attorney sparks fresh crisis for DOJ Former Manhattan attorney Preet Bharara on DOJ move: 'Deja vu' Democrats pan Trump, Barr over dismissal of US Attorney Geoffrey Berman MORE, who was ousted for defying Trump’s request for him to purge the office of Obama appointees.

The Southern District of New York is among the most prominent districts in the country, garnering national headlines for its cases against mob bosses and terrorists in recent years.

Updated: June 20 at 6:28 a.m.

Lisa Conley contributed.