Attorney General Bill Barr’s attempt last month to push U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman out of his position at the Southern District of New York blew up in his face. While Berman was ousted, Barr didn’t get the replacement he wanted, and House Democrats are now investigating.
But last Friday night, Barr successfully pulled off a similar maneuver in the Eastern District of New York. Richard Donoghue no longer leads that office, as he has taken the position of principal associate deputy attorney general at Main Justice. Seth DuCharme, who had been principal associate deputy attorney general and worked under Barr, will now serve as the acting U.S. attorney for EDNY.
It was a strange move because, as Berman has pointed out, typically U.S. attorneys are replaced by their deputies if they need to be ousted before a successor can be confirmed by the Senate. This ensures the best possible continuity for the office.
So why have Donoghue and DuCharme switch roles?
It’s not clear. And under normal circumstances, it might not arouse much suspicion. It’s always possible that, for personal reasons, the switch would work out best for both of them, and it was just convenient to have them replace one another.
But in light of the tempestuous nature of the Berman ouster, and all the reasons that episode remains fraught dubious and dubious, we can’t give Barr the benefit of the doubt that a surprising shake-up at a U.S. attorneys office is above board. This is especially true since Donoghue had been directed to manage Ukraine-related matters — that is, matters related to President Donald Trump’s impeachment. EDNY has also reportedly scrutinized Trump’s inauguration.
Barr has repeatedly demonstrated his desire to cover up for Trump, and we’ve learned multiple times that what’s happening behind closed doors in the Trump administration is even more nefarious than what happens in public. While this even has largely gone under the radar in light of the Roger Stone commutation, there might be much more to learn.