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Biden campaign says firing US attorney for New York raises 'extraordinary concerns'

ABC News logo ABC News 6/21/2020
a man wearing a suit and tie: In this April 23, 2019, file photo, Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks during a news conference in New York. Berman is stepping down as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. © Mary Altaffer/AP, File In this April 23, 2019, file photo, Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks during a news conference in New York. Berman is stepping down as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign is raising alarms about President Donald Trump’s decision Friday night to fire U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffry Berman, who declined to step down.

"Last night's news raises yet more fundamental questions about the rule of law in the Trump Administration, and heightens extraordinary concerns about an attorney general who seems to subvert his duty to seek impartial justice in order to further the political interests of the president," Deputy Campaign Manager and Communications Director Kate Bedingfield said in a statement to ABC News.

Trump had been privately pushing for the ousting of Berman and has discussed it for months with close advisers, sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.

Berman was named the interim replacement for former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara in 2018 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and oversaw several politically sensitive investigations, including the case against Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

Because the president failed to nominate him or any other permanent replacement for more than 120 days, the district court appointed Berman to the job, where by law he serves until the vacancy is filled.

According to sources close to him, Berman has always known he was being watched both by a skeptical office that initially doubted his independence, as well as the Trump administration due to several cases involving members of the president’s inner circle, including the investigation of Cohen.

"I learned in a press release from the Attorney General tonight that I was 'stepping down' as United States Attorney. I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position," Berman said in a statement Friday night.

"I will step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate. Until then, our investigations will move forward without delay or interruption," he continued.

One of those cases, which has been underway for months, is the investigation into the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani’s business activities, after two of his former associates -- Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman -- were indicted on campaign finance violations.

Berman showed up at work Saturday, telling the press he had nothing further to add to the situation.

"I issued a statement last night. I have nothing to add to that this morning. I'm just here to do my job," Berman said Saturday morning entering the office.

However, later on Saturday, Berman said he would step down with Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss now chosen to fill the role.

"In light of Attorney General Barr’s decision to respect the normal operation of law and have Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss become Acting U.S. Attorney, I will be leaving the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, effective immediately," he said in a statement. "It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve as this District’s U.S. Attorney and a custodian of its proud legacy, but I could leave the District in no better hands than Audrey’s. She is the smartest, most principled, and effective lawyer with whom I have ever had the privilege of working."

The Biden campaign argued that attempts by Trump or Attorney General William Barr to remove Berman would be "yet another instance of lawless action by the very Department charged with enforcing the law."

"The Administration must be held to account for the rash of irregular actions taken by Attorney General Barr's Department of Justice for the president's personal and political benefit," Bedingfield wrote in the statement.

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