U.S. President Donald Trump fired Geoffrey Berman, the attorney for the Southern District of New York, U.S. Attorney William Barr said on Saturday. On Friday, Barr had issued a statement announcing that Berman was stepping down, who in turn said that he learned about the decision, only through the press release.
He refused to step down and insisted on continuing with his investigations. On Saturday, in a fresh statement, Barr said he had asked the president to fire him and that he had done so.
Who is Geoffrey Berman?
Berman graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and got his law degree from Stanford University. After that, he worked as a clerk for a judge in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, followed by his stint as an associate counsel in the Office of Independent Counsel during the Iran-Contra investigation, during which he prosecuted a former CIA employee for tax fraud.
He then went on to serve as an assistant US attorney in the Southern District of New York from 1990 to 1994. He then practiced in the private sector between 1994-2008, before being appointed as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern State of New York in January 2018.
His appointment to the role wasn't devoid of controversies, largely due to his previous association with Trump. He was a member of Trump's transition team and was personally interviewed by him for the US attorney post, which raised questions over the office's independence.
He had also been a law partner of Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, who is currently under investigation, which was overseen by Berman right before his ouster. During his term, the office persecuted Michael Cohen, Trump's former attorney, who pleaded guilty to financial crimes, lying to Congress and campaign finance crimes.
He oversaw investigations on Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were associated with Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer. The two pleaded not guilty to setting up a shell company to divert a $325,000 foreign donation to a super PAC committed to Trump's re-election. They were also accused of helping Giuliani in digging up dirt against Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
He oversaw the prosecution of Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted pedophile, who died of suicide in August, last year. Trump was seeking to fire him since at least the middle of 2018, when his office opened investigation on Cohen, followed by that on Giuliani, CNN reported.
John Bolton revealed in his book that Trump offered help to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, over the Justice Department's investigation into the Turkish bank Halkbank. It had ties with Erdogan and was suspected of violating the USA's sanctions on Iran.
During the 2018 G20 meeting at Buenos Aires, Trump assured Erdogan that he would take care of things, Bolton writes. Trump further said that the Southern District prosecutors were not his people, but Obama's and the problem would be fixed once he would bring in his people.
Trump commented on Berman's ouster right before leaving for the campaign rally at Tulsa. He said that it was Barr's department and he was "not involved" in the decision.