Legal experts were shocked when the Trump administration announced on Friday night that the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York would be replaced.
Preet Bharara, who preceded Geoffrey Berman in leading the SDNY, wrote on Twitter, "Doesn’t sound like 'stepping down.'"
"Why does a president get rid of his own hand-picked US Attorney in SDNY on a Friday night, less than 5 months before the election?" Bharara asked.
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Mimi Rocah, who is a veteran of the office, agreed.
"If Berman were truly 'stepping down' he would wait until his replacement was confirmed or - as usually happens - his Deputy U.S. Attorney would be the Acting U.S. Attorney," she noted. "Why is the NJ US Attorney taking over SDNY!?"
Attorney Elie Honig also served as a prosecutor in the SDNY office.
"This is insane," Honig posted. "SDNY is the last bastion of DOJ independence and now even it has been breached."
Daniel Goldman of Trump impeachment fame is also a veteran of the Southern District of New York.
"Berman’s resignation is not typical. When SDNY USA’s step down (or are fired in Preet’s case), their deputy takes over. Going to DNJ for the acting USA is a sign that Trump/Barr did not want anyone at SDNY running the office — likely because there was a serious disagreement," he wrote.
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti wondered if the abrupt personnel change might be to protect Rudy Giuliani.
"So do you care to explain why you fired the SDNY U.S. Attorney, [President Trump]. Does it have anything to do with their investigation of Rudy Giuliani or your campaign?" he asked.
"Given Trump’s history, would anyone be surprised if he fired Berman to influence or quash the investigation of Giuliani? He hasn’t faced consequences for similar behavior in the past," he explained.
"Be concerned," former DOJ official David Laufman warned his Twitter followers. "Be very concerned."