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Schumer calls for investigation into firing of former U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman

Democrats demand probe of prosecutor firing
Democrats demand investigation over firing of powerful New York federal prosecutor 02:53

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Sunday called for an investigation into Attorney General William Barr's decision to remove the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Barr initially said Geoffrey Berman was stepping down, but Berman said he had not resigned, leading Barr to say that President Trump had fired him.

"I am calling for a three-pronged investigation that involves three entities: First, the Judiciary Committee, second, the Office of Professional Responsibility at DOJ and third, the Inspector General's Office at DOJ," Schumer said at his weekly press conference at his midtown Manhattan office.

Schumer said the "real unanswered question" is "why did the president and Mr. Barr do it?" Schumer pointed to Barr not giving a reason, and asked if it could be related to any of the Southern District of New York's investigations.

"I demanded an investigation because the late Friday night dismissal reeked of potential corruption of the legal process, and I asked what is angering President Trump?" Schumer said. "A previous action by his U.S. attorney or one that is on-going? Is what's bothering President Trump the U.S. attorney's office engagement with Mr. Cohen, Mr. Giuliani, the President himself or something else?"

Schumer also called on Jay Clayton, Mr. Trump's nominee, to immediately withdraw his name from consideration. Clayton currently serves as the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and comes with a long history of work as a corporate lawyer. However, the 53-year-old Virginia native holds no experience as a federal prosecutor, which is normally considered a prerequisite to being named as a U.S. attorney.

"Jay Clayton should immediately withdraw from consideration to be U.S. attorney. He should not be an accomplice to corrupt schemes and intrigue by the president and Mr. Barr," Schumer proclaimed.

If Clayton does decide to proceed, Schumer said he will block his nomination "using my blue-slip power should he come in before the Senate." The "blue-slip" rule is a Senate tradition that gives a senator power to stop a lower court nominee by refusing to return to the Judiciary Committee a blue piece of paper that is only given to senators from the nominee's home state.

Schumer's comments followed a dramatic weekend that started late Friday when Barr said Berman, whose officer had investigated some of Mr. Trump's associates, would be stepping down. Barr said that the U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey would fill in the interim and Mr. Trump planned to nominate Clayton.

Berman responded that he had learned about leaving office from the press, and said "I have not resigned." Barr countered on Saturday by saying Mr. Trump fired Berman based on his recommendation, although Mr. Trump said later he was "not involved." Along with saying Mr. Trump had fired Berman, Barr said Berman's deputy, Audrey Strauss, would become the acting U.S. attorney. Berman then said he would leave the office as Barr was respecting "the normal operation of law."

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