William Barr Says U.S. Attorney In Manhattan Is Resigning. U.S. Attorney Says No, He’s Not.

William Barr, US attorney general.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman is leaving as head of the powerful Southern District of New York, Attorney General William Barr announced late Friday. The Manhattan office is one of the nation’s mightiest districts, trying major cases against the mobsters, terrorists — and allies of President Donald Trump, including his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen

But Berman issued his own statement following Barr’s announcement, saying that he has “no intention of resigning my position.” Berman said the first he learned that he was “stepping down” was from Barr’s press release. He vowed that he will stay and  to “important cases” will continue “unimpeded.”

Barr’s announcement Friday came just days after allegations emerged in a book by Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton that the president promised to Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdoğan that he would “take care of” a Southern District probe into the Turkish Halkbank to curry favor with Turkey’s leader.

Berman’s office is also investigating Trump’s current personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, for contributions and his work in Ukraine to aid Trump’s re-election campaign, and had filed child sex trafficking charges against Trump’s one-time friend Jeffrey Epstein, who was found dead in his jail cell last summer.

A source told HuffPost that the departure was unimaginable. Berman, the source said, had just sent a video message to the staff Thursday about the use of personal protective gear in the office.

Barr said in his statement that Trump has nominated the current chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Jay Clayton — who has no experience as a prosecutor — to replace him.

Clayton provided legal services to Deutsche Bank — Trump’s largest lender — while he was a partner at the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell before heading up the SEC. SDNY was among a group of federal investigative offices that were reportedly investigating whether Deutsche Bank had complied with anti-money laundering laws, noted CNBC.

Berman declared in his statement that he would not leave until the Senate confirms a replacement.

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Trump has appointed the current U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, Craig Carpenito, to serve as the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York while the Senate considers the nomination of Clayton.

Fauci, Birx warned Trump against holding Tulsa rally

Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci attend a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in March.
Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci attend a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in March. 

Leading members of the coronavirus task force warned White House officials about the health risks of holding large-scale indoor campaign rallies and advised against the mass gatherings, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, and task force response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx both vocalized concerns internally in the last week about the safety of holding a rally with as many as 19,000 of people in an enclosed arena in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday.

But President Donald Trump and his campaign advisers are proceeding with the event, which is expected to draw tens of thousands inside and outside the venue who will neither be socially distant nor required to wear face coverings. They claim attendees “assume a personal risk” and “that is part of life.”

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Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the group, and his top aides have at times flouted their own administration’s guidance, opting not to wear face masks during multiple trips in recent weeks.

While Pence and the president have tried to paint a rosier picture of the virus and project a return to normalcy, some members of the task force are eager to resume appearances from White House grounds and speak directly to the American people, per two people involved in the task force meetings.

There is no current plan to bring back the once-daily press conferences, according to a person close to Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, so he has found other outlets to offer his medical advice.

Fauci has consistently done media interviews with a range of outlets, which has annoyed the president, this person said. He has also repeatedly contradicted and undercut both Trump and Pence’s more optimistic messaging with science and data that suggests a second wave is indeed coming. Trump and Fauci have not spoken or met face to face in several weeks.

Earlier in the pandemic, the president praised Fauci and touted his expertise. But he has also publicly broken with him at times when he has felt challenged, tweeting Friday in response to safety comments Fauci made about resuming football.

“Tony Fauci has nothing to do with NFL Football. They are planning a very safe and controlled opening. However, if they don’t stand for our National Anthem and our Great American Flag, I won’t be watching!!!” Trump tweeted.

Asked whether the briefings will ever return, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Friday it was unlikely and that instead she will be the one to present new information after consulting with Birx.

The task force still meets weekly, behind closed doors, and is slated to gather on Friday.

When asked if he would personally attend the Tulsa rally, Fauci said “of course not” given his age and cautioned anyone going to wear a face mask, though the Trump campaign says that will not be required.

This comes despite the Trump administration’s own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention new guidance which classifies huge crowd setting as “highest risk,” especially when it’s not possible for people to be six feet apart.

The BOK Center has requested a more detailed safety plan from the Trump campaign, which as of 24 hours before the event, had not yet submitted one. Campaign officials have warned individuals with pre-existing conditions or other factors that would put them more at risk for contracting and battling the virus not to attend Saturday’s rally, where supporters had to sign a digital waiver releasing the campaign and president of any liability if they get sick.

“There have been regular conversations between senior administration officials and the campaign about steps and precautions that can be taken,” one White House official said. “Nobody’s taking this lightly.”

Oklahoma has also seen a significant rise in COVID-19 cases, with a 100 percent spike in Tulsa County just this week, the highest in the state. One of the main reasons the campaign decided to hold the rally in the Sooner State is that it is now in phase three.

A White House official said members of the task force have been consulted and have offered input on how to safely hold rallies and noted that the Tulsa gathering is following guidelines the task force helped write for a phase three reopening.

As the White House attempted to pivot to a message of economic revival and re-opening, there has been inherent tension for members of the task force who want to continue to encourage Americans to follow CDC guidelines while satisfying the president’s public desire to move beyond the virus.

This week, Pence penned an editorial saying “we are winning the fight against the invisible enemy.”

To drive home that message, the vice president spent time outside of Washington this week mingling with scores of people at events that were tailored to look and feel as much like pre-pandemic life as the places he visited allow.

Pence walked through a crowded restaurant where patrons weren’t wearing masks, including an elderly veteran the vice president posed side-by-side with for a photograph. Any signs of an ongoing pandemic were minimized.

The table where Pence ate lunch was socially distanced from the others in the restaurant, for instance. But to get there he had to walk essentially shoulder-to-shoulder with people who lined either side of a narrow part of the restaurant and members of the audience at his outdoor speech to workers at a manufacturing plant were seated six feet apart.

Almost no one in the audience wore a mask. Pence did interviews with local reporters who weren’t wearing masks. His staff and security detail didn’t wear masks. And the guides on his tour of a manufacturing plant weren’t socially distanced or wearing masks.

“Every single day, we’re one day closer to putting the coronavirus in the past,” Pence said in his speech.

White House officials maintain Pence and Trump can operate differently from others because they are tested daily. Aides who work closely with them are also tested regularly — a small group even daily — and reporters who travel with the vice president have coronavirus tests before each trip.

The president’s political aides are worried about the narrative that may emerge if there’s a significant spike in cases in Oklahoma following the rally, according to people close to the White House. That will also likely complicate the planning of future gatherings.

Next week, the president is headlining another large-scale event with thousands of students in a Phoenix megachurch. The state has seen a steady uptick in cases this week, with back-to-back records for single-day increases Thursday and Friday, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

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Amy Klobuchar Withdraws From VP Search, Says Biden Should Select Woman of Color

The Minnesota senator’s chances at the vice presidential slot on the Democratic ticket dwindled dramatically after the death of George Floyd.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) removed herself from the running to be the Democratic vice presidential nominee, an acknowledgment that her chances at the slot had dwindled dramatically since the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in her home state late last month.

Announcing her decision on MSNBC’s “The Last Word” on Thursday night, Klobuchar said she informed presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden of her decision on Wednesday and said he should pick a woman of color as his running mate. 

“America must seize on the moment, and I truly believe — as I actually told the VP last night when I called him — that I think this is a moment to put a woman of color on that ticket,” Klobuchar said.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, New Mexico Gov. Michele Lujan Grisham and former national security adviser Susan Rice are all seen as top contenders as running mates for Biden, who was Barack Obama’s vice president. All but Warren are women of color. 

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) had been an early contender in the 2020 Democratic presidential race but failed to win a primary
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) had been an early contender in the 2020 Democratic presidential race but failed to win a primary.
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Though Klobuchar’s moderate politics and success at winning elections in the Midwest made her a favored pick of many in the Democratic donor class, she was a difficult sell for many other parts of the Democratic Party. Black activists had no enthusiasm for her, and her history of abusing staff members was likely to come up during the vice presidential vetting process.

Still, the national protests against racism and police violence that followed Floyd’s death likely eliminated Klobuchar’s chances to get the job. Floyd, a Black man, died as a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

When Klobuchar served from 1999 to 2007 as the chief prosecutor in Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis, she had declined to prosecute police officers who killed Black men in the line of duty. 

In her interview with “Last Word” host Lawrence O’Donnell, Klobuchar insisted her prosecutorial past would not have hindered her ability to serve as a running mate and vice president.

“I think I could’ve functioned fine, and there’s a lot of untruths out there about my record, and now is not the time to debate those,” she said.

Biden offered praise for Klobuchar on Twitter not long after she announced her decision.

Klobuchar is not the first vice presidential contender to remove themselves from consideration. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), who is running for reelection, and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, had already removed themselves from the process. 

Klobuchar’s call for a woman of color to be the vice presidential pick is likely to be seen as at least an indirect shot at Warren, whom Klobuchar alternately allied with and clashed with during the Democratic presidential primaries.

Though Klobuchar exceeded expectations in the New Hampshire primary, she performed poorly in both Nevada and South Carolina and dropped out rather than face a drubbing on Super Tuesday, when she likely would have been competitive only in her home state. 

Biden has already named a vice presidential search committee and has said he is likely to pick a running mate in either late July or early August.

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