Bill Barr: Trump Has Fired Top SDNY Federal Prosecutor

The New York Times reports:

Attorney William P. Barr said on Saturday that President Trump had fired the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, who has investigated the president’s closest associates, deepening a crisis over the independence of law enforcement and the president’s purge of officials he views as disloyal.

Mr. Trump removed the prosecutor, Geoffrey S. Berman, United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, after he had refused to step down on Friday night. The president’s announcement capped an extraordinary clash over an office that has been at the forefront of corruption inquiries into Mr. Trump’s inner circle.

In a statement released on Saturday, Mr. Barr said Mr. Berman had “chosen public spectacle over public service.” “Because you have declared that you have no intention of resigning, I have asked the President to remove you as of today, and he has done so,” the statement read.

Bloomberg News reports:

The resolution to a standoff between Geoffrey Berman, who has overseen investigations of President Donald Trump’s allies, and Attorney General William Barr may be contained in an obscure 1979 memo by the Justice Department that Barr heads.

The controversy has created turmoil in what may be the most important federal prosecutor’s office in the U.S., including the specter of two people simultaneously claiming to hold the top job while indicted defendants attempt to have charges against them thrown out as illegitimate.

The 1979 memo written by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel appears to answer the question of who can remove Berman. The president can fire a U.S. attorney in Berman’s position, while the attorney general can’t.