Trump and his cronies sure do love their Friday night surprises. Last night, Attorney General William ‘the toad’ Barr announced the resignation of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman. Trouble is … Mr. Berman did not resign.Berman has overseen a number of investigations involving Trump and members of his political campaign, including Michael Cohen and Rudy Giuliani. Apparently, this was to be the next step in the purge that has been taking place since February, when the republicans in the Senate grew feathers and were so afraid of offending Trump that they refused to do their jobs and convict him of the crimes on which he was impeached.
Barr’s press release stated …
“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 US attorney’s offices.”
Berman’s 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 Barr, Trump intends to replace Berman with Jay Clayton, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), who has virtually no experience as a federal prosecutor. Another interesting coincidence is that one of Clayton’s former clients is Deutsche Bank that has had some highly questionable (read ‘criminal’) dealings with Donald Trump and Jared Kushner.
The Southern District of New York is considered one of the top — if not the top — federal prosecutors’ offices in the United States, due to its handling of significant criminal cases involving terrorism, financial institutions and high-profile criminal defendants.
Replacing Berman … especially in this way … sounds alarm bells and sets off red flags. Preet Bharara, whom Berman replaced after being fired by Trump, in a tweet asked …
“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?”
U.S. Representative Ted Lieu posed the question …
“Wow, not only is US Attorney for SDNY Geoffrey Berman not resigning, he went out of his way to say that SDNY’s investigations and important cases will continue unimpeded. Was Bill Barr of @TheJusticeDept trying to obstruct an investigation or case by attempting to fire him?”
Not a doubt in my mind.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler …
“America is right to expect the worst of Bill Barr, who has repeatedly interfered in criminal investigations on Trump’s behalf. We have a hearing on this topic on Wednesday. We welcome Mr. Berman’s testimony and will invite him to testify.”
And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer …
“This late Friday night dismissal reeks of potential corruption of the legal process. What is angering President Trump? A previous action by this U.S. Attorney or one that is ongoing?”
Probably both, Chuck.
Interestingly, among the tidbits that have been released from John Bolton’s new book that will be released on Tuesday, is that Trump assured Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that he would intervene to stop the SDNY’s Halkbank investigation. Perhaps he wasn’t able to coerce Berman to drop that investigation?
It is reported that there has been recent tension between Berman and Barr over the handling of the indictment of the Turkish state-owned bank Halkbank. Turkey spent millions of dollars lobbying the White House, Congress, and the State Department to ask the Justice Department not to investigate the bank.
Last year, Barr “personally spearheaded” an effort to shield Halkbank from prosecution and negotiate a settlement with the bank that would have allowed it to avoid being indicted. The SDNY ultimately charged Halkbank in federal court for its alleged participation in a multi-billion dollar Iranian effort to sidestep sanctions.
Trump was impeached for attempting to blackmail Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in order to ‘dig up dirt’ on his political opponent, Joe Biden. Certainly that was enough to convince us that Trump is not honest (as if we didn’t already know that), but the latest dealings, culminating with this one, are proof that Trump, Barr, and the entire administration are as crooked as any in any banana republic. Even Richard ‘Tricky Dicky’ Nixon was damn near a saint when compared to Trump and his band of thugs.
Thumbs up to Geoffrey Berman for refusing to go down without a fight. Technically, William Barr cannot fire Berman … but Trump can. If he does, it’s one in a long line of people being fired for the ‘crime’ of doing their jobs properly, taking their oath to the people of this country seriously, unlike Trump, Barr, and the rest.