By Robert A. Vella
President Trump‘s henchman at the Department of Justice – Attorney General William Barr – tried to coerce the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (often called the “Sovereign District” because of its staunch independence) into resigning last night, but Geoffrey Berman flatly refused and stated that he isn’t going anywhere. What prompted Barr’s move isn’t exactly clear, but the SDNY is involved in a series of investigations into Trump’s political and business activities including a very high-profile investigation into Rudy Giuliani‘s associations with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman in the Ukraine scandal that led to Trump’s impeachment. So, why didn’t Barr just fire Berman outright? Because he might not have the authority to do so since Berman’s status atop the SDNY was established by federal judges.
In January 2018, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Berman’s appointment as interim U.S. Attorney for a statutory period of 120 days. On April 25, 2018, the judges of the Southern District of New York, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 546(d), unanimously appointed Berman U.S. Attorney for an indeterminate term that expires “until the vacancy is filled” </ref> which may or may not include the appointment of a Presidential nominee being approved by the Senate.
Another Trump henchman – Michael Pack – is seizing control of U.S. media organizations which broadcast objective and dependable news to hundreds of millions of people around the world. Concern is rising across the political spectrum that Trump is attempting to turn this agency into a personal and/or ideological propaganda network aligned with his interests and allies including Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Here’s today’s news:
Attorney General William P. Barr on Friday night abruptly tried to fire the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, Geoffrey S. Berman, who has investigated several of President Trump’s closest associates, but Mr. Berman said he would not leave.
The clash focused new attention on the efforts by Mr. Trump and his closest aides to rid the administration of officials whom the president views as insufficiently loyal. It also touched off a crisis within the Justice Department over one of its most prestigious jobs, at a time when the agency has already been roiled by questions over whether Mr. Barr has undercut its tradition of independence from political interference.
Mr. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, and his team have been at the forefront of corruption inquiries in Mr. Trump’s inner circle. They successfully prosecuted the president’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who went to prison, and have been investigating Mr. Trump’s current personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani.
“I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position,” Mr. Berman said in a statement, adding that he had learned that he was “stepping down” from a Justice Department news release.
President Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media is coming under fire from Democrats and conservatives alike following a rash of high-level dismissals at the international broadcasts it oversees.
Michael Pack, a conservative filmmaker who took over as CEO of the agency this past week, is facing pushback from congressional Democrats on the committees with oversight of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM).
The criticism on the right has come from conservative commentators and foreign policy analysts, including those who supported his nomination two years earlier and are seen as Trump loyalists.
Critics fear Pack will jeopardize the independence of the broadcast networks, which are charged with objectively reporting about the U.S. and its foreign policy to an international audience of 350 million people and in 61 languages.
Pack’s critics worry that he’s further influenced by his conservative ties, in particular his connections to Steve Bannon, the former senior White House adviser and former executive director of the conservative media site Breitbart News.
A less redacted version of the former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation reveals damaging new details about the Trump campaign’s knowledge of WikiLeaks’ document dumps during the 2016 election.
Multiple top Trump campaign aides told investigators that Trump himself, then the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, knew WikiLeaks had information that would hurt the Clinton campaign, the report said.
Mueller also believed that Trump may have lied to him in his written answers to questions from investigators.
Prosecutors also suspected that Trump may have discussed his answers with Roger Stone, the longtime former Republican strategist who was convicted on seven felony counts of obstruction, false statements, and witness tampering.
Special counsel Robert Mueller raised the possibility that President Trump lied to him during the Russia investigation.
Newly disclosed sections of Mueller’s 448-page report, unveiled Friday thanks to a legal challenge to redactions littered across the tome, showed the former FBI director’s assessment of Trump’s written answer about his conversations with longtime confidant Roger Stone and others about WikiLeaks.
“[Former Trump lawyer Michael] Cohen recalled a conversation in which Roger Stone told Trump that WikiLeaks planned to release information soon, and [former Trump campaign manager Paul] Manafort recalled that Trump had asked him to stay in touch with Stone about WikiLeaks,” a freshly divulged passage said.
“It is possible that, by the time the President submitted his written answers two years after the relevant events had occurred, he no longer had clear recollections of his discussions with Stone or his knowledge of Stone’s asserted communications with WikiLeaks,” Mueller’s report continued. “But the President’s conduct could also be viewed as reflecting his awareness that Stone could provide evidence that would run counter to the President’s denials and would link the President to Stone’s efforts to reach out to WikiLeaks.”
CHICAGO — The world has entered a “new and dangerous phase” of the coronavirus pandemic, a top official from the World Health Organization said on Friday, a stark warning that came as the United States struggled to control spiraling outbreaks and as business leaders signaled growing unease with the country’s ability to effectively contend with the virus.
Coronavirus cases spiked sharply across the American South and West, particularly in states that loosened restrictions on businesses several weeks ago.
In Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Arizona, daily counts of new coronavirus cases reached their highest levels of the pandemic this week. Texas, which has seen known cases double in the past month, became the sixth state to surpass 100,000 cases, according to a New York Times database of cases in the United States.