Schumer demands investigation into firing of top NY prosecutor

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An Abrupt Legal Fight, Explained" - "The declaration by the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan on Friday night that he would stay in his job despite Attorney General William P. Barr's attempt to fire him raised not just the mystery of what was behind Mr. Barr's move, but also a legal question: "Who has the authority to remove him?"

Berman's refusal didn't directly contribute to his ouster.

President Donald Trump on June 20, personally fired the United States Attorney in Manhattan, Geoff Berman, whose office has pursued one case after another that has rankled the president and his allies, putting his former personal lawyer in prison and investigating his current one. He operated outside Washington leadership, and won praise from Trump critics as an independent thinker.

Barr continued his job - or dirty work, as it appeared to be. But the response is never commensurate with the offense, and as a result, President Trump knows there's no line he can't cross. Instead he was installed by the judges of the NY federal court.

During his time in office, Berman led the prosecution against sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, before Epstein committed suicide in jail.

The former U.S. attorney also prosecuted the president's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, for election finance fraud and for lying to a Senate Committee.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman at a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington on October 26, 2018. Gen. William Barr sought to have Berman resign and offered him a new position.

Barr waited until midafternoon Saturday to respond in a way that mimicked what happened to Bharara.

A day before Barr abruptly announced the firing, Berman refused to sign a letter criticizing New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's social distancing restrictions, according to The Wall Street Journal. It is a powerful voting bloc that favored Trump in 2016.

Ensuring religious liberty has been a top priority for Barr, whose office has weighed in on several lawsuits around the country seeking to reopen religious gatherings during the pandemic. This appointment will be effective July 3, and Craig will work closely with the outgoing United States Attorney to ensure a smooth transition.

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The final straw for Berman, though, remains murky.

The anticipated showdown comes as the House and Senate judiciary committees are locked in an indirect battle of warring Justice Department investigations.

Schumer sent the letter to Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz and Office of Professional Responsibility Director Jeffrey Ragsdale. New Yorkers close to Berman were mystified, especially because the probe into Giuliani is ongoing, and no indictments were imminent.

Barr said Trump meant to nominate Jay Clayton, chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, to the job, although he never was a prosecutor.

"I don't think calls for his impeachment are premature any more than calls for the president's impeachment were premature, but they are a waste of time at this point", said Rep.

Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss is expected to remain Berman's acting successor until the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Jay Clayton, is installed as the new head of SDNY.

Among the most high-profile investigations he was overseeing was into Giuliani's business dealings, including whether he failed to register as a foreign agent. Was it because Mr. Berman in the Southern District of NY were pursuing criminal investigations into President Trump and his associates?

He went on to note that Strauss, who he called "a serious career DOJ lawyer with great respect all around", will "probably continue with those same investigations that [Geoffrey] Berman until this past weekend had been heading". Cohen pleaded guilty to crimes including campaign finance violations and making false financial statements, and he implicated Trump in the scheme under oath.

The committee is holding a hearing titled "Oversight of the Department of Justice: Political Interference and Threats to Prosecutorial Independence" on Wednesday.

Given all of the concerns over Berman's firing, Congress has vowed to take action, and House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from NY, has said he will investigate the matter.

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