U.S. attorney says he will leave office after Attorney General says Trump fired him

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Geoffrey Berman

FILE – In this Oct. 26, 2018, file photo, Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington. The Justice Department moved abruptly Friday, June 19, 2020, to oust Berman, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan overseeing key prosecutions of President Donald Trump’s allies and an investigation of his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. But Berman said he was refusing to leave his post and his ongoing investigations would continue. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

(CBS News)– The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman said Saturday that he will leave office hours after Attorney General William Barr said President Trump had fired him. 

Berman’s announcement that he would leave his job “effective immediately” capped a dramatic 24 hours that began when Barr announced late Friday that Berman would be “stepping down.” Shortly afterward, Berman responded with a statement saying “I have not resigned.” 

On Saturday, Berman said he would leave after Barr’s decision to “respect the normal operation of law” by making his deputy, Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. attorney. Barr had initially said Mr. Trump had appointed Craig Carpenito, currently the U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey, to fill in, and that he planned to nominate Securities and Exchange Commissioner Jay Clayton for the role.

In a letter to Berman earlier Saturday, Barr wrote that he was “surprised and quite disappointed” after seeing Berman’s comments. “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,” Barr wrote. 

Shortly before departing for a rally in Tulsa, Mr. Trump told reporters he was “not involved” in the situation. 

“Well that’s all up to the attorney general,” Mr. Trump said. “Attorney General Barr is working on that. That’s his department, not my department. But we have a very capable attorney general, so that’s really up to him, I’m not involved.”

Berman’s office investigated Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime personal lawyer who pleaded guilty in November 2018 to charges of lying to Congress, and Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two associates of Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani, another personal attorney for Mr. Trump, was the attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1983 until 1989.   

Berman also oversaw the investigation into convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who died in an apparent suicide in jail while facing federal sex trafficking charges. 

Berman was appointed to be the interim United States attorney in Manhattan by former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, although Mr. Trump never sent Berman’s nomination to the Senate. After 120 days, he was nominated by U.S. District judges. 

Berman’s predecessor Preet Bharara, who held the position through the Obama administration, was fired when he refused to resign. “I did not resign,” Bharara said on Twitter in March 2017. “Moments ago I was fired. Being the US Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life.”

Pat Milton and Andy Triay contributed to this report. 

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