In a surprising move that inevitably will be denounced by President Trump’s political opponents as another “Friday Night Massacre”, the DoJ just announced that Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney for the southern district of New York, will soon depart.
Regular readers who followed our coverage of the Mueller probe and the various and sundry investigations handed off to federal prosecutors in New York, Virginia and elsewhere. Most memorably, perhaps, have been the cases brought by Berman and his office against Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort. Berman’s office once subpoenaed Trump’s inaugural committee, infuriating the president, and more recently has been running an investigation into Rudy Giuliani, according to leaked media reports.
A Republican who contributed to Trump’s campaign, Berman was considered a highly qualified pick to succeed Preet Bharara, the previous occupant of his Berman’s soon-to-be-former office, which also features heavily in the TV show “Billions” (it’s the position held by the show’s antagonist, a corrupt federal prosecutor).
AG Barr didn’t offer much in the way of an explanation, and Berman hasn’t said much either. Then again, we’re only just finding out about this, and it’s 10pmET on a holiday Friday.
But even more surprising than the news of Berman’s sudden departure is the news of who will take his place. Following a brief interlude, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton will become the next US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
For those who aren’t familiar, Clayton is the same man who almost allowed Hertz and its creditors to sell hundreds of millions of dollars of stock to unsuspecting Robinhood day traders trying to flip their stimulus checks for quick cash with nary a word from the SEC.
But even more extraordinary than his handling of the Hertz situation is Clayton’s decision to allow Tesla CEO Elon Musk walk away from a dispute with the SEC in which the CEO flagrantly and blithely violated basic securities regulations involving disclosures of material information to the public (remember “funding secured?” and the tedious legal melodrama that ensued in which Musk, in full blown tantrum mode, was repeatedly appeased by government regulators seemingly robbed of all willingness to hold him accountable).
Indeed, the news elicited some late-breaking chuckles on twitter.
“… Jay has been an extraordinarily successful SEC Chairman.” pic.twitter.com/Dn6Kg1gON0
— andykat (@hilinetrail) June 20, 2020
We imagine we’ll be hearing more about this tomorrow.