Mark Warner calls firing of Manhattan U.S. attorney "totally inappropriate"

Warner calls firing of Manhattan U.S. attorney "totally inappropriate"
Warner calls firing of Manhattan U.S. attorne... 06:16

Washington — Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, denounced the late-night firing of the chief federal prosecutor in Manhattan on Friday, calling it "totally inappropriate" and part of a pattern in which the Trump administration quietly announces the terminations of administration officials on Friday nights.

"I think it was appropriate for Mr. Berman to push back against what I think was totally inappropriate firing by first [Attorney General William] Barr and then it appears Donald Trump himself," Warner said Sunday on "Face the Nation." 

Warner said Berman's firing bears similarities to some officials in the intelligence community who have been "either pushed out or fired because they tried to do their job of speaking truth to power."

"It appears again that Mr. Berman, who was a Trump appointee, was trying to do his job, follow the law, and that cost him his job," the Virginia Democrat said.

Late Friday night brought a dramatic series of events kicked off by a statement from Barr that Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, would be "stepping down." But Berman refuted that characterization, saying he had not resigned. On Saturday, however, Berman said he would leave his post, effectively immediately, after Barr wrote in a letter to him that he had been fired by Mr. Trump.

"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 to Berman. Audrey Strauss, the deputy U.S. attorney, is replacing Berman temporarily until a permanent successor can be confirmed, Barr said in his letter.

Berman's office conducted several investigations involving people with ties to Mr. Trump, including Michael Cohen, his longtime personal attorney, and two associates of Rudy Giuliani, also the president's personal lawyer who led the office in the 1980s. In his statement Friday night, Berman said those probes that remain open "will move forward without delay or interruption."

Warner said on "Face the Nation" that he has "absolutely no idea" why Berman was fired, and said his ouster is an example of Barr demonstrating "that he's more interested in being Donald Trump's personal lawyer than he is in being the attorney for the United States of America."

"There seems to be a pattern from this administration that the president and his henchman, Mr. Barr, are willing to get rid of anyone that's investigating people that get close to Donald Trump," Warner said.

Still, he acknowledged Strauss "should be able to do the job professionally and appropriately."

Warner also addressed the upcoming release of an explosive book by John Bolton, Mr. Trump's former national security adviser, who left the White House last year. The Trump administration attempted to block the book from being released due to concerns that classified information could be made public, but on Saturday, a federal judge declined to halt publication of the tell-all.

Bolton alleges in the book that Mr. Trump put his own interests above those of the U.S. when dealing with foreign leaders, including by pushing Chinese President Xi Jinping to buy American agricultural products to help his political standing ahead of the 2020 election.

Bolton refused to testify before the House as part of its impeachment inquiry, and his decision to publish a tell-all has drawn criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike, albeit for different reasons.

"If John Bolton really wanted to get this information out for reasons other than his own personal profit, he should've come and testified before the House or the Senate," Warner said.

When asked whether he would call Bolton to testify, Warner said "that's a 'maybe' at this point."

"I'm not sure his credibility at this moment is all that high," the Virginia senator said. "The bigger argument here is if these allegations and accusations, which are extraordinarily damning, are true, I would think my Republican colleagues would want to have that, get him under oath as well."