The effort to fire a powerful New York prosecutor seems to be the latest move to protect Trump.

The effort to fire a powerful New York prosecutor seems to be the latest move to protect Trump.

Attorney General William Barr’s statement that he replaced Geoffrey Berman with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York renewed the debate over whether Barr was acting in the interests of President Donald Trump and not the nation. Berman’s office, which refuses to resign, is investigating Trump’s lawyer Rudolph Giuliani and his associates and has also accused a Turkish state-owned company involved in a case of Iran violating sanctions imposed by the Turkish president. Recep Tayyip Erdogan with Trump.

Many former Justice Department officials have already called on Barr to step down from a series of interventions that appear to be specifically designed to benefit Trump politically. Berman’s refusal to go silent in the meantime has sparked a new crisis and a government confrontation over an already frustrated government struggling to deal with a pandemic, a subsequent economic crisis and a national racial assessment.

The president has been considering removing Berman for two years and believes the investigation into Juliani is an attempt to harm him politically, two sources told CNN’s Kevin Liptak. However, the dramatic events of Friday night sparked a new idea as to why Barr and Trump suddenly want to oust Berman – a Trump donor installed by the Trump administration in 2018 – less than five months before the election.

Before leaving for his office in central New York on Saturday morning, Berman told reporters, “I made a statement last night, I have nothing to add to this morning. I am only here to do my job. “

Basically, the episode reveals the extent to which a President with authoritarian impulses, who has consistently worked to challenge the independence of the judiciary and tried to force him to act in his own interests, is willing to act with impunity after the Senate. the acquittal of Republicans on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

In recent weeks, Bara has ordered the clearing of protesters from Washington’s Lafayette Square just minutes before the controversial photo of the President in a church. His ministry has suspended the prosecution of Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn – who has twice admitted to lying to the FBI – and tried to reduce the sentence for political stabilizer Roger Stone, another prominent Trump aide. A year ago, Barr may have saved Trump’s presidency by making an impression on Special Adviser Robert Mueller’s report in a way that favored Trump – before anyone could read the report.

Meanwhile, the President has promoted the top leadership of the FBI and the Department of Justice in a way that suggests political motives. More recently, he has threatened to send regular troops to the streets to protest against racism. And it has cleared up general inspectors who are independent government officials.

Burman’s controversy comes as the president launches a high-level 2020 re-election campaign with a rally Saturday night in Oklahoma in front of a large crowd defying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Center’s proposals to limit the pandemic. .

“Friday night massacre”?

Extraordinary events concerning Berman’s fate were the last worrying echo of Saturday night’s massacre of former Richard Nixon when the then president ordered his attorney general to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox at the height of the Watergate scandal.

Late Friday afternoon – the traditional ground of dumping for controversial news – Barr issued a press release announcing the sudden resignation of Berman who said he would be replaced by Jay Clayton, the head of the Capital Market Commission, who has never served as an importer. .

By itself, Barr’s move was shocking, as the New York Southern Area is one of the most famous and independent prosecutors and usually handles extremely sensitive economic, politically sensitive and terrorist cases.

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The fact that SDNY also investigated and convicted President Michael Cohen’s personal lawyer and is currently examining Giuliani’s financial and business affairs immediately raised suspicions of a conflict of interest and political interference, as well as a new audit of behavior and motivation. of Barr. The addition to the intrigue is that Giuliani was the top federal prosecutor in New York during the 1980s.

The New York federal prosecutor’s office is also working on several cases in which it was reported by Mueller when it completed its investigation into whether Trump’s campaign knowingly interfered with Russia’s election campaign. The president described the president as “Person-1” in his case against Cohen, saying he was directing campaign finance offenses involving the payment of money to many women who said they had an affair with Trump.

Berman’s dismissal attempt sparked another fire in Washington with the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nantler, a New York Democrat, who immediately announced a hearing on Wednesday and called on Burman to testify.

“America has the right to expect the worst from Bill Barr, who has repeatedly intervened in criminal investigations on behalf of Trump,” Nandler said in a statement.

CNN’s legal analyst, Laura Coates, said late Friday that if Barr seemed to facilitate actions that “undermine expediency … or go ahead with any case, it adds another fire to the fire for those who burn for their problems.” with this Attorney General and his inability to really enhance or really contribute to the moral and career prosecutor’s ability to do his job. “

Berman refuses to leave

An already massive controversy erupted when Berman, in a stunning move, issued his own statement late at night, accusing Barr of his decision to expel him and refusing to go, arguing that after being technically appointed by a committee of judges to be active. Based on 2018, Barr has no power to force him to continue serving.
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“I learned in a press release from the Attorney General tonight that I have ‘resigned’ as United States Attorney General. I have not resigned and I have no intention of resigning, my position, which I have been appointed by the U.S. District Court to the District Court. New York County, “Berman said.

“I will resign when a presidential candidate is confirmed by the Senate. Until then, our investigation will proceed without delay or interruption,” he said. The chances of a new U.S. attorney general being confirmed for the southern district of New York long before the election are slim, and there is a possibility of legal battle over Berman’s term.

CNN legal analyst Paul Callan said: “I think the President will have a hard time forcing Mr. Berman not to find his office because he came under strange circumstances.”

Berman’s reference to this research immediately raised the question of whether he spoke specifically about the general work of his department or about any cases that might be of particular interest to Barr and Trump.

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His contempt for the next steps left it unclear, but at least he spoke of the remarkable chaos he unleashed on the Justice Department under Trump, which has intensified since Bar took office.

CNN reported growing tensions between Washington and Berman’s office, including in some cases, including the Turkish bank Halkbank. In his new book, former National Security Adviser John Bolton said Trump told the Turk strongly that he would “take care of things” when he had replaced prosecutors in New York with his own people. The Ministry of Justice and Berman, however, bring a case against the Turkish bank in October 2019.

The government discussed replacing Berman with Ed O’Callaghan, a senior official last fall, but the move was suspended after Giuliani’s co-defendants accused of collaborating with Levan Parnas and Igor Furman, sources said.

CNN representatives Erica Orden, Evan Perez, Kara Scannell and Kevin Liptak contributed to the report.

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