09:32 GMT18 May 2021
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    Late on Friday, a Justice Department press release said that President Donald Trump intended to nominate Jay Clayton, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to the post of US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, sparking speculations over the timing of the move.

    Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) since 2018, has made a statement to announce that he does not intend to exit his post, despite information coming from the Department of Justice late on 19 June, reports CNN.

    "I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position, to which I was appointed by the Judges of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Berman said in the statement.

    The attorney, who claims to have discovered plans regarding him through a Justice Department press release, added:

    "I will step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate. Until then, our investigations will move forward without delay or interruption. I cherish every day that I work with the men and women of this Office to pursue justice without fear or favour — and intend to ensure that this Office's important cases continue unimpeded."

    In an unexpected announcement on Friday night, Attorney General William Barr had said that President Donald Trump would be nominating Jay Clayton, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to succeed Berman in his post.

    Clayton was previously a corporate lawyer at Sullivan & Cromwell, and would be the first non-prosecutor in the post if confirmed.

    The outlet quoted sources in the Justice Department as saying Berman had been offered other positions at the office, including the head of the civil division. After assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt exited earlier in the week, the position had been left vacant.

    However, sources add, at an in-person meeting with Barr in New York, Berman was believed to have rejected the offer, with another source cited as claiming the US attorney for the Southern District of New York had been asked to resign and refused.

    According to sources, William Barr, who has long been acquainted with Jay Clayton, had acquiesced after the potential candidate for SDNY had voiced a desire to return to the city, setting his sights on the position.

    In the Department of Justice statement, Attorney General William P. Barr touted the “excellent” work done by Jay Clayton:

    "For the past three years, Jay has been an extraordinarily successful SEC Chairman, overseeing efforts to modernise regulation of the capital markets, protect Main Street investors, enhance American competitiveness, and address challenges ranging from cybersecurity issues to the COVID-19 pandemic."

    Referring to Geoffrey Berman, Barr said he had "done an excellent job leading one of our nation's most significant US attorney's offices, achieving many successes on consequential civil and criminal matters".

    According to Barr, Craig Carpenito, the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, has been appointed by the President to serve as acting United States attorney for the Southern District of New York until Clayton is confirmed.

    Unexpected Exit

    Geoffrey Berman’s unexpected exit from his post, writes the outlet, is certain to stir up some speculations.

    The US Attorney had investigated a number of associates linked with President Donald Trump.

    Earlier, Berman’s office prosecuted Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's former attorney, and is currently investigating Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and president's personal lawyer, in connection with his business dealings.

    Rudy Giuliani walks to his motorcade vehicle
    © AP Photo / Carolyn Kaster
    Rudy Giuliani walks to his motorcade vehicle

    His office also indicted Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman for funnelling $1 million in donations from foreign nationals to unspecified political campaigns in the United States.

    Both were also witnesses in the impeachment inquiry launched by House Democrats against Donald Trump over his 25 July telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which the US head of state purportedly tried to press Kiev to probe alleged corruption by Hunter Biden, who was linked to the Ukrainian energy company Burisma.

    Sources cite tension between Berman and Barr over the handling of a spate of cases, including the indictment of Turkish bank Halkbank.

    Commenting the move, Preet Bharara, a CNN senior legal analyst, labelled it as a "highly irregular thing to do ... when there are all sorts of investigations swirling around".

    "The President, his associates, there may be anger about the way that some of the prior investigations were conducted, with respect to his former lawyer Michael Cohen and others," said Bharara.

    Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted that the "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?"


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