White House distances Trump from Berman ouster
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Monday defended the administration’s abrupt firing of one of the government’s top prosecutors and sought to downplay President Trump’s involvement.
McEnany faced multiple questions at Monday’s press briefing over the ouster of Geoffrey Berman, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who oversaw investigations into several of Trump’s associates.
“The attorney general was taking the lead on this matter. He did come to the president and report to him when Mr. Berman decided not to leave, and at that point is when the president agreed with the attorney general,” McEnany said, seeking to explain conflicting explanations of Trump’s involvement.
“He was involved in a sign-off capacity,” McEnany added.
McEnany denied Berman was fired because he led or was leading investigations into former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, current Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his associates, or the late Jeffrey Epstein, a social acquaintance of Trump’s.
She did not specify why the administration wanted Berman to leave the post immediately instead of waiting for a Senate-confirmed replacement.
But she said the president nominated Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton for the role because Clayton “wanted to go back to New York City.”
“We wanted to keep him in government and therefore he was given the position at SDNY,” McEnany said.
The Justice Department announced late Friday that Berman would step down as U.S. attorney. But Berman issued a statement a short time later saying he was not resigning, prompting mass confusion about why he was being pushed out.
Attorney General William Barr announced Saturday that Trump had fired Berman, and that Berman’s deputy would take over the job until the Senate confirmed a new attorney for the post.
Trump told reporters Saturday that he was “not involved” in Berman’s ouster, despite Barr saying he had approved the firing.