The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York pushed back Friday night against reports that he was resigning from the position.
Geoffrey Berman, who oversaw prosecutions of allies of President Donald Trump — as well as a probe of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani — said he learned he was stepping down when he read a press release about it, The Associated Press reported.
Reacting to the news of his departure, Berman said he would not be leaving right away.
“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,” 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.”
— Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York
The earlier report that Berman was resigning came in a statement from Attorney General William Barr, the AP reported.
The attorney general said President Trump intends to nominate Jay Clayton, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to replace Berman, with the U.S. attorney in New Jersey, Craig Carpenito, serving on an acting basis beginning July 3.
Berman has been in the position for more than two years. Barr’s announcement late Friday, came after he visited New York City and met with local police officials there.
Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks during a news conference in New York City, April 23, 2019. (Associated Press)
Preet Bharara, who served in the New York position prior to Berman, disputed Barr’s claim that Berman had resigned.
“Doesn’t sound like ‘stepping down,’” Bharara wrote on Twitter. “Why does a president get rid of his own hand-picked US Attorney in SDNY on a Friday night, less than 5 months before the election?”
Katherine Flaunders, a reporter with ABC News, wrote on Twitter that Barr had offered Berman other jobs, including head of the Civil Division at the Justice Department, but Berman declined the offers.
The report of Berman’s ouster was likely to raise additional questions from congressional Democrats who have accused Barr of politicizing the Justice Department and acting more like Trump’s personal attorney rather than the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.
The news comes just days after former national security adviser John Bolton claimed in his tell-all book that Trump promised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan he’d interfere in Halkbank case that was being prosecuted in the Southern District.
The office has prosecuted a number of Trump associates, including Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who served a prison sentence for lying to Congress and campaign finance crimes, and has also been investigating Giuliani and his associates.
Federal prosecutors in New York are investigating Giuliani’s business dealings, including whether he failed to register as a foreign agent, according to people familiar with the probe. The people were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Berman, a Republican who contributed to the president’s election campaign, worked for the same law firm as Giuliani and was put in his job by the Trump administration. But as U.S. attorney, he won over some skeptics after he went after Trump allies.
He had recused himself from directly overseeing the Cohen investigation for reasons that were never disclosed.
Berman was appointed by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in January 2018, months after Bharara was fired after refusing to resign along with dozens of other federal prosecutors appointed by President Barack Obama.
Three months later, FBI agents raided Cohen’s offices, an act the president decried as a politically motivated witch hunt.
Berman has taken a direct hand in other investigations that have angered Trump.
His office subpoenaed Trump’s inaugural committee for a wide range of documents as part of an investigation into various potential crimes, including possible illegal contributions from foreigners to inaugural events.
And weeks before the 2018 midterm election, Berman announced insider trading charges against an ardent Trump supporter, Republican Rep. Chris Collins.
Collins, who represented western New York, has since resigned.
Under Berman’s tenure, his office also brought charges against Michael Avenatti, the combative lawyer who gained fame by representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in lawsuits involving Trump. Avenatti was convicted in February of trying to extort sportswear giant Nike after prosecutors said he threatened to use his media access to hurt Nike’s reputation and stock price unless the company paid him up to $25 million.
The Southern District of New York is one of the nation’s premiere districts, trying major mob cases and terror cases over the years. If the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks had been tried in a court of law, it would have been there.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.