Stephen Vladeck, the A. Dalton Cross Professor in Law at the University of Texas School of Law, walked through the strange case of U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman and why he was removed by Attorney General Bill Barr out of the blue.
The new defense appears to be that Barr fired Berman to make room for Jay Clayton, but Vladeck disputed the claim, saying that the excuse has three major problems.
"First, the Clayton story makes no sense because the Senate still uses blue slips for U.S. Attorneys," he tweeted. "Blue slips" are notes from senators from the state approving or disapproving of a nominee. It isn't likely that Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) are going to sign off on a new U.S. attorney that has no prosecutorial experience, said Vladeck.
"Second, Barr's Friday night statement—in his own words—is affirmatively misleading. Leaving aside Carpenito (more on him in a moment), the statement claimed that Berman was 'stepping down,' even though Barr (1) knew he wasn't; and (2) lacked the power to fire him directly," Vladeck explained.
Then there's the matter of the letter Barr sent out Saturday. According to Vladeck, it didn't say anything about Craig Carpenito being the "acting" director of the SDNY. The previous statement said Trump "appointed" him, not that he intended to appoint Carpenito.
The letter also claims Trump was behind the removal of Berman. When Trump was confronted about the move he said that Barr was in charge of all of that and he had nothing to do with it.
Vladeck also said that the Saturday letter "holds out the IG (who Barr has constantly undermined) as a check."
At the same time, even if Barr wanted to get Clayton a new job, Berman could have served until Clayton is confirmed by the Senate. There was no reason to remove him and then make an appointment.
"That’s a rather big plot hole," said Vladeck.
"I don't know why Barr did this," he continued. "But the attorney general ought to turn square corners when taking these kinds of actions. Given the above considerations, I don't see how one can look at Friday's statement and Saturday's letter and conclude that Barr acted above board."