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Top Manhattan prosecutor leaves job after standoff with Barr – Boston Herald

By MICHAEL BALSAMO and LARRY NEUMEISTER

WASHINGTON (AP) — An extraordinary standoff between Attorney General William Barr and Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor ended Saturday when the prosecutor agreed to leave his job with an assurance that investigations by the prosecutor’s office into the president’s allies would not be disturbed.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman announced he would leave his post, ending increasingly nasty exchanges between Barr and Berman. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, had distanced himself from the dispute, telling reporters the decision “was all up to the attorney general.”

This episode has raised new questions about political interference in the Justice Department, particularly given that Berman was investigating Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. It also deepened tensions between the department and congressional Democrats, who have accused Barr of politicizing the agency and acting more like Trump’s personal lawyer than the country’s chief law enforcement officer.

The whirlwind chain of events began Friday night, when Barr announced that Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, had resigned. Hours later, the prosecutor issued a statement denying that he had resigned and saying that his office’s “investigations would move forward without delay or interruption.”

On Saturday morning, he showed up to work, telling reporters, “I’m just here to do my job.”

The administration’s push to cast aside Berman set up an extraordinary political and constitutional clash between the Justice Department and one of the nation’s top districts, which has tried major mob, financial crimes and terrorism cases over the years.

Only days ago, allegations surfaced from former Trump national security adviser John Bolton that the president sought to interfere in an investigation by Berman’s office into the state-owned Turkish bank in an effort to cut deals with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

In a letter made public by the Justice Department Saturday afternoon, Barr said he expected to continue speaking with Berman about other possible positions within the department and was “surprised and quite disappointed” by the statement he released.

“Unfortunately, with your statement of last night, you have chosen public spectacle over public service,” Barr wrote, adding that the idea that Berman had to continue on the job to safeguard investigations was “false.”

“Your statement also wrongly implies that your continued tenure in the office is necessary to ensure that cases now pending in the Southern District of New York are handled appropriately,” he wrote. “This is obviously false.”

Although Barr said Trump had removed Berman, the president told reporters: “That’s all up to the attorney general. Attorney General Barr is working on that. That’s his department, not my department.” Trump added: “I wasn’t involved.”

Barr offered no explanation for his action. The White House announced that Trump was nominating Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton, a well-connected Wall Street lawyer with virtually no experience as a federal prosecutor, for the job.

Berman initially planned to remain in his job until a replacement was confirmed, but he changed his mind late Saturday after Barr said he would allow Berman’s second in command, Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss, to become acting U.S. attorney.

Berman said that led him to announce he would be leaving, “effective immediately.”

“I could leave the District in no better hands than Audrey’s,” Berman said. He added that her appointment meant Barr had decided “to respect the normal operation of law.”

People familiar with the matter in the Southern District could point to no clear reason for Berman’s removal, though they noted his job had always seemed in jeopardy and Berman was never given the sense it was secure.

Berman’s office also took actions on some important cases without first informing Washington. But the various investigations are ongoing and no charges seem imminent, said the people familiar with the matter, who weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

A senior department official said Clayton was planning to leave the administration, wanted to move back to New York and expressed interest in the Southern District position, and Barr thought he would be a good fit. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss internal department matters and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he was unlikely to proceed with Clayton’s nomination unless New York’s senators, Democrats Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, gave their consent to the pick. Schumer said the bid to oust Berman “reeks of potential corruption of the legal process,” and Gillibrand said she would “not be complicit” in helping fire a prosecutor investigating corruption. Both lawmakers called for Clayton to withdraw from consideration.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said his committee was inviting Berman to testify this coming week. Schumer called for the department’s inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate.

Berman’s statement Friday night said he would stay on the job until a nominee was confirmed by the Senate. He challenged Barr’s power to remove, given that Berman was appointed by federal judges, not by the president, and the White House never formally nominated him. Under federal law, a U.S. attorney who is appointed by district court judges can serve “until the vacancy is filled.”

But the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel argued in a 1979 opinion that the “power to remove a court-appointed U.S. attorney rests with the president.” It says, “The president is responsible for the conduct of a U.S. Attorney’s office and therefore must have the power to remove one he believes is an unsuitable incumbent, regardless of who appointed him.”

Federal prosecutors in New York have overseen numerous prosecutions and investigations with ties to Trump in recent years. That includes an ongoing investigation into Giuliani’s business dealings, including whether he failed to register as a foreign agent, according to people familiar with the matter. They were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The office has also prosecuted a number of Trump associates, including Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who served a prison sentence for lying to Congress and campaign finance crimes. Cohen was recently released from a federal prison to continue serving his sentence on home confinement over coronavirus concerns.

Berman has overseen the prosecution of two Florida businessmen, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were associates of Giuliani and tied to the Ukraine impeachment investigation. The men were charged in October with federal campaign finance violations, including hiding the origin of a $325,000 donation to a group supporting Trump’s reelection.

A Republican who contributed to the president’s election campaign, Berman worked for the same law firm as Giuliani and was tapped as U.S. attorney by the Trump administration. In that role, he won over some skeptics after he went after Trump allies.

Under Berman’s tenure, his office also brought charges against Michael Avenatti, the combative lawyer who gained fame by representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in lawsuits involving Trump. Avenatti was convicted in February of trying to extort Nike after prosecutors said he threatened to use his media access to hurt Nike’s reputation and stock price unless the sportswear giant paid him up to $25 million.

___

Neumeister reported from New York. Associated Press writers Colleen Long, Eric Tucker, Zeke Miller and Marcy Gordon in Washington and Tom Hays and Kevin Hagen in New York contributed to this report.

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“Something Stinks” – Comey Lashes Out at Trump, Barr For Firing Mueller Hack SDNY US Attorney Geoffrey Berman

James Comey

Fired FBI Director James Comey on Saturday lashed out at US Attorney General Bill Barr and President Trump for firing SDNY US Attorney Geoffrey Berman.

Barr on Friday fired Mueller hack and US Attorney Geoffrey Berman and nominated Jay Clayton to replace him.

The crooked attorney refused to step down and released a statement of his own, which Barr referred to as a ‘public spectacle.’

Berman’s office was the lead in several high profile cases assembled by Robert Mueller and Andrew Weissmann.

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Comey whined in a WaPo op-ed that Barr and Trump fired a US Attorney who was ‘handling cases close to the president.’

“Something stinks.” Comey wrote.

There has always been a tension — much of it healthy — between Washington and the Southern District, but the attempt to fire the current United States attorney feels very different. Geoffrey Berman’s office has apparently been handling cases very close to the president. In 136 days, there is an election that the incumbent appears likely to lose. The attorney general, surely not proceeding on his own, acts to bump the well-regarded head of the Office on a Friday night, in the middle of a pandemic. Something stinks.

The country is well-served by the independent spirit and reputation of the Southern District of New York. It has long been the place where hard cases could be done in a way Americans trusted. It was where Bill Clinton’s 11th-hour pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich could be credibly investigated. It is also the place with jurisdiction over so much of this president’s complicated life.

And it is a place that follows the facts alone to reach conclusions, without regard to politics, just as Stimson wanted. Maybe that’s why William P. Barr moved to knock off Berman on a Friday night and announced President Trump’s intention to replace him with someone who has never worked there. And maybe that’s why Berman, in the finest traditions of the office, stood up.

President Trump fired Geoffrey Berman Saturday after the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York refused a request by Attorney General William Barr to resign Friday night.

Barr offered Berman higher positions within the DOJ, but Berman declined and instead publicly ranted that he couldn’t be removed from office.

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Trump on firing of Geoffrey Berman: ‘I’m not involved’

“Unfortunately, with your statement of last night, you have chosen public spectacle over public service,” Barr said in his letter to Berman. “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.”

Trump, however, speaking to reporters shortly after Barr’s letter was made public, said, “That’s his department, not my department.” He added: “I’m not involved.”

Berman’s firing caps a remarkable 24 hours that encompassed a power struggle over the leadership of the most prominent prosecutors’ office outside Washington, one that has prosecuted one of Trump’s lawyers, is investigating another and has probed the activities of the President himself.

During a meeting in New York on Friday, Barr had asked Berman to resign, but Berman refused, CNN reported, and hours later Barr issued a statement saying Berman had “stepped down.” Two hours later, around 11 p.m. ET on Friday, Berman said he had learned of his purported exit from a press release.

“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. I will step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate,” Berman said.

On Saturday morning, with news cameras staked outside his lower Manhattan office, Berman entered the building, telling reporters, “I issued a statement last night, I have nothing to add to that this morning. I’m just here to do my job.”

Barr’s letter Saturday noted that “by operation of law,” Berman’s current deputy, Audrey Strauss, will become Acting US Attorney, “and I anticipate that she will serve in that capacity until a permanent successor is in place.” On Friday evening, Barr said he intends to nominate as Berman’s permanent successor Jay Clayton, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who has never been a prosecutor.

Barr’s effort to push out one of the most powerful prosecutors in the country had begun to run into headwinds Saturday, with Republicans signaling little appetite to fight to confirm a new US attorney amid Democratic accusations that the move was an effort to shield Trump’s associates from federal investigation.

Republicans on Capitol Hill were blindsided by the late Friday night effort by Barr to seek the ouster of Berman and showed little willingness to confirm a new nominee without Democratic support — meaning there is a real possibility that Clayton’s nomination could languish and Berman could stay at the post indefinitely.

The fast-moving developments seemed to catch by surprise Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, a close ally of Trump’s and Barr’s, who said Saturday he had not been told about the effort to fire Berman.

And in a significant announcement Saturday, Graham announced that he will honor tradition to let home-state senators sign off on a replacement for Berman’s post, meaning that Democrats essentially have veto power over a replacement to a position considered the most powerful US attorney job in the country.

This story has been updated with additional developments Saturday.

CNN’s David Shortell and Jason Hoffman contributed to this report.

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Bolton can publish book despite efforts to block it – Boston Herald

By ERIC TUCKER

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former national security adviser John Bolton can move forward in publishing his tell-all book, a federal judge ruled Saturday, despite efforts by the Trump administration to block the release because of concerns that classified information could be exposed.

The decision from U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth is a victory for Bolton in a court case that involved core First Amendment and national security issues, even as the White House pledged to keep pursuing the onetime top aide. And the judge also made clear his concerns that Bolton had taken it upon himself to publish his memoir without formal clearance from a White House that says it was still reviewing it for classified information.

“Defendant Bolton has gambled with the national security of the United States. He has exposed his country to harm and himself to civil (and potentially criminal) liability,” Lamberth wrote. “But these facts do not control the motion before the Court. The government has failed to establish that an injunction will prevent irreparable harm.”

The White House signaled the legal fight would continue, saying it would try to prevent Bolton from profiting off the book.

President Donald Trump tweeted that Bolton “broke the law by releasing Classified Information (in massive amounts). He must pay a very big price for this, as others have before him. This should never to happen again!!!”

In the meantime, though, the ruling clears the path for a broader election-year readership and distribution of a memoir, due out Tuesday, that paints an unflattering portrait of Trump’s foreign policy decision-making during the turbulent year and a half that Bolton spent in the White House.

Bolton’s lawyer, Chuck Cooper, applauded Lamberth for denying the government’s attempt to “suppress” the book. Publisher Simon & Schuster said the decision “vindicated the strong First Amendment protections against censorship and prior restraint of publication.”

While declining to halt the book’s release, Lamberth did suggest that Bolton may have left himself open to potential criminal prosecution by publishing classified information and that the government may prove successful in preventing Bolton from benefiting financially.

The White House indicated it planned to do exactly that, saying in a statement that the government “intends to hold Bolton to the further requirements of his agreements and to ensure that he receives no profits from his shameful decision to place his desire for money and attention ahead of his obligations to protect national security.”

“Whatever he makes he’s going to be giving back, in my opinion, based on the ruling,” Trump added before heading to a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Bolton’s team insisted that Bolton had spent months addressing White House concerns about classified information and that Bolton had been assured in late April by the official he was working with that the manuscript no longer contained any such material. Bolton’s lawyers said the Trump administration’s efforts to block the book were a pretext to censor him for an account that the White House found unfavorable.

The Justice Department sued this past week to block the book’s release and to demand that copies be retrieved. Officials said the book contained classified information and submitted written statements from administration officials testifying to that assertion. They also said Bolton had failed to complete a prepublication review process meant to prevent government officials from disclosing national security secrets in books.

The judge did not take issue with those concerns in his order. But with more than 200,000 copies of the book already distributed to booksellers across the country, attempting to block its release would be futile, Lamberth wrote. Major media organizations also obtained the book and published comprehensive accounts about it.

“In taking it upon himself to publish his book without securing final approval from national intelligence authorities, Bolton may indeed have caused the country irreparable harm. But in the Internet age, even a handful of copies in circulation could irrevocably destroy confidentiality,” Lamberth wrote.

“With hundreds of thousands of copies around the globe — many in newsrooms — the damage is done. There is no restoring the status quo,” the judge wrote.

Bolton’s book, “The Room Where it Happened: A White House Memoir,” depicts a president whose foreign policy objectives were inexorably linked to his own political gain.

Bolton says Trump “pleaded” with China’s Xi Jinping during a 2019 summit to help Trump’s reelection prospects. Bolton writes that Trump linked the supply of military assistance to Ukraine to that country’s willingness to conduct investigations into Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter — allegations that were at the heart of an impeachment trial that ended with Trump’s acquittal by the Senate in February.

The monthslong classification review process for the manuscript took a complex path.

Bolton says he was told April 27 by a career official with whom he had worked for months on edits that the manuscript was now free of classified information. But another White House official soon embarked on an additional review and identified material that he said was classified, prompting the administration to warn Bolton in writing against publication.

Bolton’s lawyers say the White House assertions of classified material were an attempt to censor him over a book the administration simply finds unflattering.

“If the First Amendment stands for anything, it is that the Government does not have the power to clasp its hand over the mouth of a citizen attempting to speak on a matter of great public import,” Bolton’s attorneys wrote in a court filing.

Trump on Thursday called the book a “compilation of lies and made up stories” intended to make him look bad. He tweeted that Bolton was just trying to get even for being fired “like the sick puppy he is!”

Even Democrats who pounced on some of Bolton’s anecdotes to condemn the president nonetheless expressed frustration that he had saved them for his book instead of participating in the impeachment case.

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Barr: Trump has removed top federal prosecutor in Manhattan

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General William Barr on Saturday told the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan that President Donald Trump had removed him from the job, deepening tensions between the country’s chief law enforcement officer and a high-profile U.S. attorney who had been overseeing investigations of Trump’s allies.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman intends to continue to fight his removal.

The whirlwind chain of events began Friday night, when Barr announced that Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, had resigned. Hours later, the prosecutor issued a statement denying that he had resigned and saying that his office’s “investigations would move forward without delay or interruption.”

On Saturday morning, he showed to work, telling reporters, “I’m just here to do my job.”

In a letter made public by the Justice Department later Saturday, Barr said he expected to continue speaking with Berman about other possible positions within the department and was surprised by the statement he released.

“Unfortunately, with your statement of last night, you have chosen public spectacle over public service,” Barr wrote, adding that the idea that Berman had to continue on the job to safeguard investigations was “false.”

“Your statement also wrongly implies that your continued tenure in the office is necessary to ensure that cases now pending in the Southern District of New York are handled appropriately,” he wrote. “This is obviously false.”

The administration’s push to cast aside Berman set up an extraordinary political and constitutional clash between the Justice Department and one of the nation’s top districts, which has tried major mob and terrorism cases over the years and is investigating Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

It also deepened tensions between the department and congressional Democrats, who have accused Barr of politicizing the agency and acting more like Trump’s personal lawyer than the country’s chief law enforcement officer.

Barr offered no explanation for his action. The White House announced that Trump was nominating Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton, a well-connected Wall Street lawyer with virtually no experience as a federal prosecutor, for the job.

People familiar with the matter in the Southern District could point to no clear reason for Berman’s removal, though they noted his job had always seemed in jeopardy and Berman was never given the sense that it was secure.

Berman’s office also took actions on some important cases without first informing Washington. But the various investigations are still ongoing and no charges seem imminent, said the people familiar with the matter, who weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

A senior department official said Clayton was planning to leave the administration, wanted to move back to New York and expressed interest in the Southern District position, and Barr thought he would be a good fit. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss internal department matters and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Only days ago, allegations surfaced from former Trump national security adviser John Bolton that the president sought to interfere in an investigation by Berman’s office into the state-owned Turkish bank in an effort to cut deals with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he was unlikely to proceed with Clayton’s nomination unless New York’s senators, Democrats Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, gave their consent to the pick. Schumer said the bid to oust Berman “reeks of potential corruption of the legal process” and Gillibrand said she would “not be complicit” in helping to fire a prosecutor investigating corruption. Both lawmakers called for Clayton to withdraw from consideration.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said his committee was inviting Berman to testify this coming week. Schumer also called for the department’s inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate.

Berman’s statement Friday night said he would stay on the job until a nominee was confirmed by the Senate. He challenged Barr’s power to remove, given that Berman was appointed by federal judges, not by the president. Under federal law, a U.S. attorney who is appointed by district court judges can serve “until the vacancy is filled.”

But the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel argued in a 1979 opinion that the “power to remove a court-appointed U.S. attorney rests with the president.” It says “the president is responsible for the conduct of a U.S. Attorney’s office and therefore must have the power to remove one he believes is an unsuitable incumbent, regardless of who appointed him.”

Barr said in his letter that the deputy U.S. attorney, Audrey Strauss, would take over the top job until a permanent successor is in place.

Federal prosecutors in New York have overseen numerous prosecutions and investigations with ties to Trump in recent years. That includes an ongoing investigation into Giuliani’s business dealings, including whether he failed to register as a foreign agent, according to people familiar with the matter. They were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The office has also prosecuted a number of Trump associates, including Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who served a prison sentence for lying to Congress and campaign finance crimes. Cohen was recently released from a federal prison in New York to continue serving his sentence on home confinement over coronavirus concerns.

Berman has overseen the prosecution of two Florida businessmen, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were associates of Giuliani and tied to the Ukraine impeachment investigation. The men were charged in October with federal campaign finance violations, including hiding the origin of a $325,000 donation to a group supporting Trump’s reelection.

A Republican who contributed to the president’s election campaign, Berman worked for the same law firm as Giuliani and was put in his job by the Trump administration. But as U.S. attorney, he won over some skeptics after he went after Trump allies, and had a direct hand in other investigations that have angered the president.

Berman was appointed by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in January 2018, after Preet Bharara, then U.S. attorney in New York, was fired. Bharara had refused to resign along with dozens of other federal prosecutors appointed by President Barack Obama.

Months later, FBI agents raided Cohen’s offices, an act the president decried as a politically motivated witch hunt. Berman withdrew from Cohen’s prosecution; it was never explained why.

The following April, in the absence of a formal nomination by Trump, the judges in Manhattan federal court voted to appoint Berman to the position permanently. The White House never said why Trump didn’t formally nominate Berman.

Under Berman’s tenure, his office also brought charges against Michael Avenatti, the combative lawyer who gained fame by representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in lawsuits involving Trump. Avenatti was convicted in February of trying to extort Nike after prosecutors said he threatened to use his media access to hurt Nike’s reputation and stock price unless the sportswear giant paid him up to $25 million.

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Neumeister reported from New York. Associated Press writers Colleen Long, Eric Tucker, Zeke Miller and Marcy Gordon in Washington and Tom Hays and Kevin Hagen in New York contributed to this report.

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Trump fires Manhattan prosecutor who refused to quit, Barr says

“Unfortunately, with your statement of last night, you have chosen public spectacle over public service,” Barr continued. “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.”

Barr wrote that Berman’s top deputy, Audrey Strauss, will take over as temporary head of the office “until a permanent successor is in place.” Barr’s statement last night, however, said New Jersey U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito would take over the office.

White House officials have not responded to requests for comment on the unusual showdown between the attorney general and Berman, whose office has a long tradition of relative independence from Justice Department headquarters in Washington.

Barr and Berman have long had an adversarial relationship, but Friday night’s bungled ouster attempt still stunned longtime DOJ observers. Berman’s office handled a number of investigations and prosecutions linked to Trump and his associates, including the case against Trump’s ex-consigliere Michael Cohen and investigations that scrutinized the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his inaugural committee.

Recently, the office made international news for sparring with Prince Andrew in an effort to secure the British royal’s testimony for an investigation involving the activities of deceased pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

Strauss’s installation will likely shield the department from allegations that DOJ headquarters fired Berman in hopes of immediately installing a political lackey or to shut down ongoing investigations. Public records show she has made political contributions to both Republicans and Democrats over the years, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. She worked in the Southern District for a stint from 1976 to 1983, according to her official bio, and also worked for the independent counsel who investigated the Iran Contra scandal.

Berman was seen heading into the SDNY offices on Saturday, telling reporters he had nothing to say beyond Friday’s statement, in which he vowed to continue the office’s current probes and said he would leave only when a permanent replacement was confirmed by the Senate.

Berman’s ouster comes days after a forthcoming memoir by former national security adviser John Bolton claimed that Trump once sought to remove prosecutors at the Southern District at the behest of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Trump made the commitment during a summer 2019 phone call with the Turkish strongman, who had asked the U.S. president to lean on the Justice Department to drop its prosecution of Halkbank, a Turkish bank accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

“Of course, this was all nonsense,” Bolton wrote, “since the prosecutors were career Justice Department employees, who would have proceeded the same way if the Halkbank investigation started in the eighth year of Trump’s presidency rather than the eighth year of Obama’s.”

Halkbank, which stands accused of laundering billions for the sanctioned Iranian regime, pleaded not guilty in March following a federal indictment.

Democrats have decried Berman’s removal, denouncing the move as a blow to the rule of law. Rep. Jarrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) on Friday invited the ousted U.S. Attorney to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, which he chairs.

But as of Saturday, it was not clear how Berman planned to respond to Barr’s latest statement; legal scholars noted that the fact that he was appointed by judges rather than by the president himself likely means that only the president could remove him. That was the conclusion of a 1979 memo from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

The fate of Clayton’s nomination is also uncertain. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally, said Saturday he had not heard from the Trump administration about its plans to replace Berman but praised Clayton as “a fine man and accomplished lawyer.”

However, Graham (R-S.C.) indicated he would defer to the Senate’s “blue slip” tradition, in which individual senators may effectively block the nomination of someone who hails from their home state. That would empower Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to stop Clayton from advancing through the Judiciary Committee — and Schumer has already indicated he thinks Clayton should withdraw from consideration.

“Forty seven years ago, Elliott Richardson had the courage to say no to a gross abuse of presidential power,” Schumer said Saturday, invoking the Nixon-era prosecutor. “Jay Clayton has a similar choice today: He can allow himself to be used in the brazen Trump-Barr scheme to interfere in investigations by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, or he can stand up to this corruption, withdraw his name from consideration, and save his own reputation from overnight ruin.”

Not long after Schumer, New York’s other senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, similarly called on Clayton to withdraw. “I will not be complicit in helping President Trump and Attorney General Barr fire a U.S. attorney who is reportedly investigating corruption in this administration,” Gillibrand said in a statement.

Kyle Cheney contributed reporting.

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Who Can Fire a Court-Appointed U.S. Attorney? A New Legal Fight, Explained

In his letter on Saturday, Mr. Barr instead said that Mr. Berman’s deputy, Audrey Strauss, will become the acting U.S. attorney as the law normally provides in the event of a vacancy. He wrote that he anticipated that “she will serve in that capacity until a permanent successor is in place,” without explaining why he was backing down on his initial plan.

That could be particularly important because there is reason to believe that the Senate will not confirm Mr. Trump’s nominee for the position, Jay Clayton, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who has no prosecutorial experience. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said on Saturday that he will not move the nomination without the assent of New York’s two Democratic senators.

Complicating matters, Mr. Lederman said, is that it is far from clear that the Trump administration could unilaterally install a different temporary successor to lead the office, as Mr. Barr initially had planned to do.

In 1986, when Samuel A. Alito Jr., now a Supreme Court justice, worked at the Office of Legal Counsel, he wrote a memorandum suggesting the attorney general cannot make successive interim appointments. Still, in 1987, Charles J. Cooper, then the head of the office, wrote in another memo that “it could be argued” that after a president removes a court-appointed U.S. attorney, the power to appoint an interim successor reverts to the attorney general.

“It’s not at all clear that either Trump or Barr — as opposed to the court — could name Berman’s temporary replacement,” Mr. Lederman said.

Back in 1979, Mr. Harmon acknowledged some ambiguity even about who could fire a court-appointed U.S. attorney in the first place. He left open the possibility that district court judges might interpret the conflicting statutes in a way that was more favorable to their own powers rather than the president’s.

Mr. Harmon warned that just because he thought Mr. Carter could remove a court-appointed U.S. attorney did not necessarily mean it would be a good idea “since the incumbent U.S. attorney apparently has the backing of the district court. That court might react unfavorably to any action that does not carefully comport with the letter of the statute.”

William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting from New York.

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Trump fires US attorney who investigated his allies

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has fired Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan overseeing key prosecutions of President Donald Trumps’s allies and an investigation of his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, according to Attorney General William Barr.

Barr says Trump Berman defied administration effort to remove him.

“I’m just here to do my job,″ Geoffrey S. Berman told reporters on Saturday.

This story will be updated

Latest News Headlines:

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28 Things Under $50 That People Actually Swear By

“Best $50 I ever spent.” —me, these reviewers, and maybe you

We hope you love the products we recommend! All of them were independently selected by our editors. Just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page if you decide to shop from them. Oh, and FYI — prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.

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A pair of versatile go-to leggings you can rock with your favorite accessories, running errands, or on the couch. What I am trying to say here is, why wear jeans ever again?


Amazon

Promising review: “I had read the reviews but really didn’t think it was true. But OMG. These are SO soft. They don’t have a fleece lining which is what I was looking for. They are completely opaque so no see through, but they are soft as a bunny. I swear. These have totally become my favorite leggings. I have already bought a dozen pair of different colors. These leggings are the best. To finish this up, I don’t normally do reviews unless I am really impressed. Oh. I got the plus size and I usually wear a 3X. No problems.” —HelloKitty

Get it them Amazon for $12.99+ (available in two sizes that fit S-XXXL and in 22 colors and two lengths).


4.

A squatty potty that’ll adjust your position and relax the right muscles so you can pass poo comfortably. Life gets busy, you do(do) not need to deal with bloating and constipation on top of it.


Amazon

Promising review: “I’ve struggled with the #2 for the last couple years. I’ve gone from Defecating Toxic Avenger to ‘Dear GOD! I feel like I’m passing the Twin King Guardian Statues’. It’s been a sphincter nightmare. No matter what I tried: prunes, more water, high fiber, Taco Bell, even White Castle — nothing was working. Usually, in a three-week interval, I’d get very sick and spend three to four hours going to the bathroom nine or ten times. After my sphincter would be tender and I’m damn near positive if this had gone on, it would be the end of me. Then I saw this. Decided to go ahead and plunk down the $25. By day two of using it I started to feel better and my cramps were gone. I swear to god, when I go on my next road trip, I’m taking the damn thing with me, and IDGAF if my friends laugh at me. This damn thing may have saved my health and possibly my life.” —DJ_Malsidious

Get it from Amazon for $24.99.

Learn more in our full write up: I Tried The Squatty Potty And I Will Never Poop The Same

5.

A cult-favorite mascara to add volume and length to your lashes with a few flicks of the wrist, making those minimal makeup days even easier.


Sephora

Promising review: “This mascara makes my eyelashes look phenomenal. Long, thick, separated and I don’t even have to use an eyelash curler anymore. I get compliments from strangers nearly every time I wear this mascara – I’ve actually had to tell people “Yes, they’re real” on several occasions (eye roll). Buy it!” —Peachgrenade

Get it from Sephora for $13+ (available in two sizes).

6.

A portable blender bottle so you can blend fruits and veggies on the go. Smoothies? Anywhere you are? Breakfast every day? Yes, you can have it all.


amazon.com

Promising review: “This is so convenient. I bought this because I don’t like using a big blender and cleaning it everyday. With this blender I just need to put in the ingredients and press the button. Plus the USB charging is great. I can charge it anytime and the charge lasts for a long time. I just charge it once a week at night and I am set. It makes great smoothies. The blade works great and really blends. Plus the color is really nice too. I can put the bottle in my purse, it is light and the lid doesn’t leak. Five stars.” —Ainee A.

Get it from Amazon for $36.99 (available in four colors).


7.

A roll-up drying rack, because countertop and sink space is IMPORTANT real estate that must be utilized efficiently. Amen.


Amazon

Promising review: “We have tried to minimize the amount of stuff taking up our kitchen countertop, so we got rid of the dish rack. I still wanted the ability to dry dishes and big pots/pans after cooking, so I got this rack. Thing is AWESOME. It is extremely versatile and rolls up neatly for storage under the sink or wherever else you’d want to store it. It repels water and makes cleaning it very simple. Gunk doesn’t want to stay on it and anything that does stick to it comes right off with a light scrub and some dish soap. It doesn’t smell at all and is lightweight, but very sturdy and able to hold two to three big pots and pans over the sink. You can also fold it in half if you want to access the sink but want to dry a pot or some glasses while washing.” —Jay C.

Get it from Amazon for $24.99 (available in two sizes).

8.

A Glossier Milky Jelly cleanser you can use on dry skin as a makeup remover, or on wet skin as a hydrating face wash. Either way, sorry to your other skincare products that’ll never see the light of day after you bring this baby home.


Glossier

Promising review: “Love this stuff so much! Since I have sensitive skin, it’s always been hard for me to find a good cleanser. But this stuff is awesome. It’s so gentle and feels so nice when you massage it into your skin. Its texture is amazing and better than any other gel cleanser I’ve tried. I can tell that my skin has improved after using this stuff. A bonus is the subtle rose smell, which is thankfully not from any artificial fragrance. This cleanser is perfect for sensitive skin.” —glitter

Get it from Glossier for $9+ (available in two sizes).


9.

A deep conditioning mask that’ll revive dry hair with its Argan oil, collagen, B vitamin, and rosehip oil formula. It’s like a hydrating drink of water but for your head. *Ahhh.*


instagram.com

Promising review: “This product changed my hair routine! It’s an absolute must for me! My hair is coarse / thick and by the end of the week the ends get brittle and dry. I use this in the shower every Sunday and it adds moisture, softness, and shine back into my locks. It’s totally changed the way my hair feels throughout the week! LOVEEEE!” —Caybabe

Get it from Sephora for $9+ (available in three sizes).

10.

A powerful steamer that basically brings the fancy spa straight to your home. Now you can lure those pesky blackheads out without having to pay for an expensive facial.


amazon.com, amazon.com

It lasts for 12 minutes at a time and even features a UV light to sterilize the steam! It also comes with a blackhead extraction kit, but just be careful and watch some tutorials before you go to town on your skin.

Promising review: “Excellent product, packaged well & arrived intact! It delivers a hot steady mist for 8-10 mins using distilled water. Depending on what my skin needs I’ll follow with a hydrogel sheet mask, brightening mask or deep cleansing mud mask. I’ve used this facial steamer several times since I purchased it. My only regrets is not buying years ago.” —William C. Mitchell

Get it from Amazon for $35.99+ (available in gold and purple).


11.

An adjustable wood organizer for transforming your cluttered desk into a trendy space you *won’t* mind working at all day.


Amazon, amazon.com

Promising review:I love how customizable it is, especially with it being two separate parts that can just slide towards or away from each other to adjust the space accordingly. I used it for my office desk so that I could make use of the vertical space for all the objects all over my desk, and it looks so much neater thanks to this handy shelf! It’s fairly durable: I put my office phone (~10 lbs) on the top shelf, which is resting on the very edge of the bottom piece, and there have been no issues so far!” —Sarvani Gorti

Get it from Amazon for $24.99+ (available in three colors).


12.

A fuzzy fleece jacket that’ll upgrade the leggings you’ve been wearing to your most successful OOTD post yet.


Amazon

Promising review: “It’s soooo soft!!!!!! I totally recommend buying this. I’m usually a size medium but I ordered a large, because most people were saying that if you wanted it oversized at all then size up. I did that and I’m glad I did. It’s a great oversized fit, but it’s definitely not too oversized. Another great thing about it is that it’s lined with a really soft material on the inside just as the outside. Wearing it is like a big fluffy blanket and it’s amazing.” —lainna

Get it from Amazon for $31.99+ (available in sizes S-3XL and in 17 styles/colors)

13.

A cooling eye gel for giving the skin around your eyes a refresh. It’s packed with vitamin C, ginseng root, and coffee extract that can help with the appearance dark circles.


Versed

Promising review: “I picked this up after I realized I wanted to show off my skin and wear less makeup. It was an impulse purchase but I’m so glad I bought it! I work retail, and my staff knows I live on coffee when I open as I am a night owl. My dark circles are barely there and skin has never felt better! I told my sister who’s used it as well and we’ve picked up more by this brand. Amazing skincare at the perfect price!” —KatieKat

Get it from Versed for $17.99.


14.

Water resistant, wireless ear buds to get you through commutes, workouts, and the noisy neighbor who likes to host a wrestling match in their apartment every night.


amazon.com

Promising review: “Product functions as advertised and meets all expectations. The battery life of the earbuds is quite lengthy, and they hold a charge when not in use. The charging box for the earbuds can also double as a power bank and fully charge my phone, which is convenient. The sound quality of the earbuds themselves is excellent and there isn’t a large lag in the sound as with other Bluetooth devices I’ve used. 10/0, would recommend!” —Soap user

Get it from Amazon for $23.99.

15.

A teensy vacuum…made for your PORES. Seriously, all that ~poor~ dirt, grease, and dead skin doesn’t stand a chance. Say it with me: It’s time to move on out, you pesky blackheads!


amazon.com, amazon.com

It’s designed for all skin types, thanks to its five different levels. Level one is for sensitive and dry skin, levels two and three are for neutral skin, and levels four and five are for mixed and oily skin. The set comes with four suction heads: for blackheads, removing dirt/grease, reducing dead skin buildup and fine lines, and tightening your skin. It’s also rechargeable and they really thought of everything!

Promising review: “I honestly can’t run out of great things to say about this! This blackhead remover works WONDERS I use it about once or twice a week & absolutely love it. It works very well, and I have seen a size reduction in my pores since using it for the past few weeks. I highly recommend this blackhead remover!” —Andrea

Get it from Amazon for $31.59+.


16.

A brush spinner that’ll clean up every last bit of makeup from even the dirtiest brushes AND then dry ’em — all in less than a minute. And to even *think* we’ve been cleaning our brushes BY HAND this entire time.


Amazon

Promising review: “This baby deep cleaned my brushes like crazy. I’ve never been able to clean them with an ordinary mat — it would take me longer and my hands would be pruned up from touching the bristle looking for remaining dirt in between. With this, it separates the bristles during spin. It’s kind of like the face cleansing brush, it does most of the work for you. I was scared at first when it because I thought it would mess up the shape of the brush but I squeezed it back in place and it was good. Best product I’ve purchased in a while. I love this thing, It would definitely be a great gift to all my friends.” —Grace

Get it from Amazon for $19.99.

17.

A pollen-, dust mite-, mold-, and pet dander-busting detergent that just might make all the difference if your regular allergy medicine just can’t do the job on its own.


Amazon

Many reviewers heard about this from their allergist, so if regular over-the-counter medicine just isn’t doing it for you, you should probably visit your doctor! This detergent contains Acaril, which removes allergens without having to wash and dry your clothes and sheets on hot.

Promising review: “This product is an essential for me. I’m highly allergic to dust mites, but it wasn’t a problem until I moved to Florida. After living here about a year, I somehow became seriously allergic to my clothes. I couldn’t wear something from my closet without sneezing and enough tears and nasal discharge to derail anything. Regular washing did nothing. I washed everything in this and the problem was completely, obviously, no-question-about-it solved. Now I wash all my clothes in this about once a year, whenever they start to make me sneezy, and bedding for me and my kids every so often. It is a wonderful product and it absolutely works.” —Amy

Get it from Amazon for $24.95 (roughly 45 loads per bottle).

18.

A dry shampoo POWDER (!!) so you can ditch the shower and end up with hair that *looks* like it just got a fresh wash. Hey, nobody has to know it’s going on day three…or five.


Aveda

Promising review: “I have fine hair and tend to have oily complexion/scalp. I have washed my hair every day as long as I can remember. This product gives me volume and the gift of time as I don’t have to wash on day two. In fact, my day two hair is now better than day one. LOVE IT! I give Aveda’s dry shampoo as a gift all the time as it’s transformed my hair care routine and I want to share the joy.” —MJ

Get it from Aveda for $31.


19.

A set of WILDLY popular microfiber sheets (seriously, they have over 63,000+ positive reviews!) you’ll be thinking about crawling back into the second you leave them.


Amazon

Promising review: “These are the sheets we have been searching for a long time! They are top quality, super soft, and I swear I even sleep better with this excellent bedding! Our bed has very deep pockets, and we usually have to use special straps just to keep the sheets on the mattress, but these fit and stay in place without any problems. I couldn’t be happier with this purchase after many disappointments in the past with other brands. I guess there is a good reason why they are number one on Amazon, I’m just glad I discovered this brand!” —g-man

Get it from Amazon for $32.97+ (available in sizes twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, California king, split king, and in 44 colors).

20.

An Amazonian clay foundation (with SPF 15!) for balancing complexion and creating a flawless matte finish that won’t cake or crease.


instagram.com, Tarte

It has over 6,000 reviews and a 4.8-star rating on Tarte! I can even back up these claims because this is one of my favorite foundations, and I wrote all about it here (it’s #1).

Promising review: “This long-lasting foundation is my go-to, whether it be going to work or a night out. I absolutely love the coverage it provides. I have an oily forehead but drier skin otherwise and it provides a full, matte finish to my face without cracking/creasing or coming off. Can’t see myself switching to another product for a while.” —Jenny

Get it from Tarte for $39 (available in 40 shades).


21.

A powerful nail strengthener formulated with hydrolyzed wheat protein and calcium to prevent breakage and make your nails harder and longer. It can be used by itself as a stand-alone treatment or as a base coat alternative.


amazon.com

Promising review: “I used to be a terrible nail biter and this product has been an amazing help on my road to kicking the habit and finally growing strong healthy nails. It also works as a great base coat with most polishes, though I’ve found it especially effective when used with OPI colours and topcoats. I’ve attached my (terrible) before and after photo. I’m not sure I could have turned my nails around without this product.” —R

Get it from Amazon for $16.89.

22.

A compact hair roller that’ll remove ALL the pet hair embedded on your sheets, clothes, and upholstery — something anyone with a fur baby knows is no easy feat.


amazon.com

Added bonus: This product doesn’t use sticky adhesive paper. The roller can be reused over and over again because of its high quality bristles that grab the hair again and again like a brush.

Promising review: “Where has this been all my crazy cat-loving life? Sticky rollers work fine for clothes but this is the only product that has ever COMPLETELY removed all the cat hair from my bed. I have a long-haired 20-lb. tabby and if you run your hands up his back a few times and fling the hair everywhere, it looks like it’s snowing – he never stops shedding no matter what I do. After using the ChomChom, I can put on a black dress and roll around on my bed and not get a single hair on me. It’s absolutely amazing. Everyone is getting one for Christmas, even if they don’t have a pet. I don’t care; it’s THAT good.” —Stephanie

Get it from Amazon for $24.95.


23.

An all-natural de-frizzing smoothie cream for thick and curly hair that’ll reduce breakage and hydrate so your curls can live their best life.


instagram.com

Promising review: “This is a true miracle. I put this on after the leave in and twist my hair directly after! I did not have to do anything to my hair to define my curls! Nothing at all! And my twists are so juicy and stretchy! Didn’t even have to use gel!” —Target Reviewer

Get it from Target for $11.99.

24.

A set of transparent, shatter-resistant, leak-proof, air-tight leftover and lunch containers so your leftover or meal prep game becomes and actual reality (and your soup or salad dressing never ends up seeping anywhere it’s unwelcome).


Amazon

These heavy-duty plastic containers are microwave-, freezer-, and dishwasher-safe. They even have little vents you can open so you can microwave them with the lid on, preventing splatters!

Promising review: “Best upgrade! We’d been using plastic storage containers from the grocery store, where you pay $8 and get a bunch from a plastic bag company. My husband HATED those. They would stain, leak, or smell — even after they were cleaned. So when I saw these on BuzzFeed, I ordered a kit. We love them! Easy to clean, certain foods don’t stain, not one leak has happened — and we eat soup and stir fry a lot for lunch. I immediately ordered five more so we could have a total of eight. We tend to do lunch at work 4/5 days. It was perfect. Also, the food seems to stay a bit fresher too, because of it being airtight. 100% would recommend to anyone looking for a good set of storage containers.” —Amazon Customer

Get it from Amazon for $29.38 for a 14-piece set (also available in other set sizes).

25.

A heated shiatsu-massage pillow because work was a nightmare, the car wouldn’t start, you spilled your coffee, and you just need some dang relaxation and something to work out those knots. This’ll help.


amazon.com, Amazon

Promising review: “I was looking for a massaging product to help with my lower back pain. I discovered the Zyllion pillow massager and thought it was a very reasonable price so I ordered it. The Shiatsu balls rotating on my lower back in combination with the heating feature (which can be turned off) really provided the relief I was looking for. I use it every morning while watching the news and it relieves the tightness in my back so I can get the day started. I would recommend this product to anyone.” —D. Anderson

Get it from Amazon for $49.95.


26.

A wireless phone charger for keeping your phone juiced up without the hassle of cords. After all, you are the life of the group chat so it’s CRUCIAL that your phone be charged at all times.


Amazon

Only compatible with iPhone 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max, XR, XS Max, XS, X, 8, 8 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S10 S9 S8, Note 10, Note 9.

Promising review: “Works with Otterbox Defender case! I have a Samsung Galaxy S7 with an Otterbox Defender case. I didn’t want to have to take my case off as this charger would be primarily used when I’m at work. I opted to stream music from my phone instead of buying and bringing a radio to my office, and I was using a standard charger but getting annoyed when I would have to leave my office and want to take my phone with me. I was so happy that I ordered one for my home as well!” —Karissa T.

Get it from Amazon for $12.27.

27.

A faaaaancy smart notebook that’ll capture your best doodles, lists, and thoughts where you can then upload them all to your computer. Now it’s easier than ever to spam your family chat with your amazing talent.


amazon.com

And once you upload the images, you can just erase the pages and reuse them.

Promising review: “OMG!!! This device is so cool. It works beautifully. The scanning as well as the syncing capabilities are awesome. I have it scanned and synced to my Microsoft Note account. Writing with the pen is smooth and the paper feels like paper. The use of the wet cloth to erase works exactly like they said it does. I wish I had this product while in college. It is worth every penny.” —Tulla Bell

Get it from Amazon for $24.98+ (available in two sizes and eight colors).


28.

A clay mask sworn by more than 3,700 Sephora customers (really, it has *that* many positive reviews!) to help with stubborn acne and clogged pores.


Sephora

Promising review: “Great for oily, acne prone skin! It draws out excess oil from your pores and when it dries down on your skin you can see all the oily little pore dots trapped in the dry clay. It’s also perfect for hormonal acne and can help reduce the inflammation. I’m insanely oily, and this stuff really helps keep the oiliness in check when used once a week. If I haven’t been perfect with my skincare and my skin feels clogged, I can use it two or three times in a week for a reset. Not cheap, but the best products never are.” —MeraLovesMakeup

Get it from Sephora for $25+ (available in four sizes).


Me to everything on this list:


Paramount Pictures

Some reviews have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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Posted on

Replacing Geoffrey Berman will be tough before the November election

Despite Attorney General Bill Barr’s claim that Berman would be stepping down, the top prosecutor for the Southern District of New York said Friday he would not step aside until there’s a Senate-confirmed nominee. But since there is a real possibility that the nomination of Jay Clayton to replace him could languish, that means Berman could be at the post indefinitely.

US attorney nominees typically follow what is known as the “blue-slip” process in the Senate, meaning that once home-state senators sign off on the nominee, then the confirmation proceedings will take place. But given the controversy around the attempted firing of Berman, it is highly unlikely that both Democratic senators from New York will sign off on Clayton’s nomination to replace Berman.

On Saturday, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, called on Clayton to withdraw his name for consideration and for an inspector general probe into the reasoning behind Barr’s attempt to fire Berman, whose office was investigating Trump confidante Rudy Giuliani and other sensitive matters.

Graham signaled he would let Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand sign off on Clayton’s nomination before taking it up in his committee, something that is highly unlikely to happen.

“As to processing U.S. Attorney nominations, it has always been the policy of the Judiciary Committee to receive blue slips from the home state senators before proceeding to the nomination,” Graham said. “As chairman, I have honored that policy and will continue to do so.”

It’s unclear whether Barr and President Donald Trump gave Republicans advanced notice about this attempt to remove Berman, who is investigating Trump associates, and whose office named Trump as “individual 1” in the Michael Cohen hush-money scandal where Trump sought to silence stories about his alleged extramarital affairs.

Graham said nobody had contacted him about the matter ahead of time, and a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to comment on Saturday.

The process for considering a new nomination for the job would take several weeks, if not several months to play out. The nominees have to get FBI background investigations, have to fill out a questionnaire and have to answer written committee questions for the record.

US attorney nominations typically are approved with little dissent since home-state senators have already signed off on their nominations. But this nomination almost certainly would not get backing from both parties, meaning Republicans would have to push the Clayton pick forward and defend Trump’s decision to fire Berman in the middle of an election year. There appears to be little appetite for that.

Indeed, if the GOP attempted to move Clayton’s nomination, it undoubtedly would spark a huge partisan fight and eat up floor time when the Senate has a limited number of legislative days before the August recess and before the November elections.