A top US federal prosecutor whose office has been investigating President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, on Friday refused to step down after the administration abruptly said it was replacing him.
The dramatic standoff marks the latest in series of unusual actions by Attorney General William Barr that critics say are meant to benefit Trump politically and undermine the independence of the Justice Department. It also comes as Trump seeks to purge officials perceived as not fully supporting him.
Barr, in a surprise late-night announcement, said the US Attorney in Manhattan, Geoffrey Berman, was stepping down.
Berman, who leads a powerful office known for prosecuting high-profile terrorism cases, Wall Street financial crimes and government corruption, said he first learned of the move from Barr's press release and would not go quietly.
"I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning my position," Berman said in a statement. "I will step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate. Until then, our investigations will move forward without delay or interruption."
Since being appointed in January 2018, Berman has not shied from taking on figures in Trump's orbit. His office oversaw the prosecution of Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal lawyer, indicted two Giuliani associates and launched a probe into Giuliani in connection with his efforts to dig up dirt on Trump's political adversaries in Ukraine. Prosecutors have not accused Giuliani of wrongdoing.
Berman's abrupt attempted dismissal came as the Justice Department asks a federal court to block publication of a book by former National Security Adviser John Bolton, whose claims include an allegation Trump tried to interfere with a probe overseen by Berman's office.