Berman was an associate counsel in the Office of Independent Counsel during the Iran-Contra investigation, where he prosecuted a former CIA employee for tax fraud, before serving as an assistant US attorney in the Southern District of New York from 1990 to 1994.
During his first run as a US attorney, he handled criminal prosecutions involving tax securities and computer hacking violations, according to the department’s website.
“I will step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate,” Berman said. “Until then, our investigations will move forward without delay or interruption.”
Appointment initially met with concern
Berman has been the US attorney for Manhattan since 2018. His initial appointment was met with some public and private concerns among the office’s prosecutors and others about his previous associations with Trump.
Berman had also been a law partner of Rudy Giuliani — though they never worked on a case together at their former firm, Greenberg Traurig, LLP, according to a person familiar with Berman’s time there, and had little involvement with one another.
But in the time since Berman took office, according to people familiar with the matter, New York federal prosecutors have come to support and trust him, saying they believe he has upheld the office’s independence and pursued politically sensitive cases based solely on their legal merits.
An unusual position among US attorneys
US attorneys are typically nominated by the President and then are required to be confirmed by the Senate, but Berman, who has led the office since January 2018, is neither.
Berman was initially appointed on an interim basis by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions for a 120-day term. At the time, some Democrats promised to use procedural efforts to block Berman’s nomination, saying his interview with Trump for the job posed a conflict of interest.
When the end of that term came without the White House putting forth a nominee, the judges of the federal district court in Manhattan voted to appoint Berman to remain in the job. As a result, under federal law, he can serve until the Senate confirms a Trump nominee.
“As Interim U.S. Attorney for this same district, he will lead an incredible team of attorneys and investigators and help provide New Yorkers with safety, security, and peace of mind,” Sessions said at the time Berman took his position. “I am pleased to appoint him to this important role.”
Tension with Trump
Trump has been weighing replacing Berman since at least the middle of 2018, two people familiar with the matter told CNN. And he has made references in private to replacing Berman since at least the summer of 2018, they said — only a few months after Berman assumed the role.
The President has grown progressively more upset with the office since it began its investigation into Cohen, and believed its investigation into Giuliani — which was revealed late last year — was meant to damage him politically, one person said.
Berman asserted his office’s independence
There has also been tension between Barr and Berman since Barr became attorney general last year.
“The Southern District of New York has a long history of integrity and pursuing cases and declining to pursue cases based only on the facts and the law and the equities, without regard to partisan political concerns,” he said in March.
“My primary commitment is and has been to maintain those core values and that’s how our office is operating.”
CNN’s Erica Orden, Kevin Liptak, Evan Perez, Kara Scannell and Shimon Prokupecz contributed to this report.