Not sure if the resistance will end first or we get a COVID vaccine. mrossol
So here’s the plan. We need to remove a U.S. Attorney because he’s investigating associates of the President. Let’s wait until four months before the election, and let’s do it on a Friday night so it looks suspicious and the guy can refuse to step down and make himself a martyr to the Resistance. Yeah, that’ll fool everybody.
That’s what the media and Democrats want everyone to believe about President Trump’s weekend dismissal of U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman. It’s more accurate to say this looks like a fiasco of bungled execution by the Administration and self-indulgence by Mr. Berman that is being overplayed as an abuse of power. In other words, it’s your average Trump melodrama.
Mr. Berman has been U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York for more than two years under a judicial appointment but was never nominated or confirmed by the Senate. Mr. Trump has every right to fire Mr. Berman as an inferior officer in the executive branch. Attorney General Bill Barr was negotiating with Mr. Berman over a transfer to another senior job on Friday when the Justice Department issued a statement that Mr. Berman is “stepping down,” which is standard Justice Department language in these cases.
The White House said at about the same time that the President would nominate SEC Chairman Jay Clayton to replace Mr. Berman. The highly competent Mr. Clayton, a New Yorker, had planned to leave the Administration but said he’d stay for the U.S. Attorney job.
Mr. Berman then issued a grandstanding press release late Friday saying he wouldn’t go until a successor was nominated and confirmed by the Senate. Mr. Trump finally fired him on Saturday at Mr. Barr’s recommendation, and Mr. Barr said in a letter to Mr. Berman that his deputy, Audrey Strauss, will replace him until a successor is confirmed.
That should end this as a legal matter. Mr. Berman doesn’t have squatter’s rights to the job, and there is no violation of law or abuse of power here.
The political cost is a different story. The Washington Resistance to Mr. Trump is portraying this as an attempt to protect his political allies. Mr. Berman has prosecuted Mr. Trump’s former associates, including attorney Michael Cohen, and the hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels. He’s also said to be investigating Deutsche Bank’s business dealings with the Trump Organization before Mr. Trump was President.
But our Justice sources say Mr. Berman’s active investigations don’t involve Mr. Trump’s allies, except a minor one related to Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani. Replacing Mr. Berman with Mr. Clayton or anyone else won’t make investigations go away. The minute anyone moved to shut one of them down, the news would leak and career prosecutors would resign. Mr. Barr’s Saturday letter to Mr. Berman said he tasked Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz with examining any “improper interference” with current investigations. If this is a coverup, it’s the most inept in history.
The shame is that all of this wastes more of Mr. Barr’s political capital. The AG is trying to clean up the Justice Department after its 2016 campaign abuses, and U.S. Attorney John Durham is investigating what happened and why. But the media and the FBI and Justice officials who spied on Trump campaign officials, promoted the false Steele dossier, and lied to the FISA court are desperate to tarnish Mr. Barr before Mr. Durham reports. That’s what’s really behind all the outrage over what should be a routine replacement of a U.S. Attorney.