Geoffrey Berman: Trump fires top US prosecutor who refused to quit

(BBC) – US President Donald Trump has fired a top federal prosecutor who refused to leave office, Attorney General William Barr has said.

Geoffrey Berman, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said on Friday that he had learned he was “stepping down” in a press release.

Mr Berman insisted he would stay in post and continue his investigations.

On Saturday, Mr Barr told him that he had asked the president to remove him immediately, and that he had done so.

Top US Democrat Nancy Pelosi said she believed there were “base and improper motives” in the sacking of Mr Berman and that the Attorney General “must be held accountable for his actions”.

Mr Berman oversaw the prosecution of a number of Mr Trump’s associates.

They included the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, who has served a prison sentence for lying to Congress and election campaign finance fraud.

Mr Berman’s department has also been investigating the conduct of Rudy Giuliani, Mr Trump’s current personal lawyer.

What happened on Friday?

The row between the attorney general and the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan began on Friday night, when Mr Barr issued a press release announcing that Mr Berman was “stepping down” after two-and-a-half years in the post.

Mr Berman had “done an excellent job”, achieving “many successes on consequential civil and criminal matters”, Mr Barr said.

He added that the president intended to nominate Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Jay Clayton, who has never served as a federal prosecutor, as Mr Berman’s successor.