The US attorney who oversaw key prosecutions of allies of President Donald Trump and an investigation into his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has suddenly resigned from his post, officials said on Friday.
Geoffrey Berman is stepping down as the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, attorney general William Barr said in a statement.
Berman’s abrupt resignation is 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.
Barr said Trump intended to nominate Jay Clayton, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to the post. The US attorney in New Jersey, Craig Carpenito, will serve as the acting US attorney in Manhattan, beginning on 3 July, Barr said.
It was unclear why Berman was leaving the position after serving for more than two years. The announcement, made late on Friday, came after Barr visited New York City and met local police officials there.
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 Erdoğan he would interfere in the 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 inquiry. 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 US attorney, he won over some skeptics when 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 former US Attorney Preet Bharara was fired after refusing to resign along with dozens of other federal prosecutors appointed by 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 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 adult actor 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 $25m.
The Southern District of New York is one of the nation’s premiere districts, trying major mob cases and terror cases over the years.
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