Last month, Attorney General William Barr asked Geoffrey Berman, the top federal prosecutor in New York, to step down.When he didn’t, President Donald Trump fired him.Berman, who Trump nominated for the job in the first place, has overseen multiple federal cases against Trump’s associates, as well as sex trafficking charges against Jeffrey Epstein.On Thursday, Berman’s successor, Audrey Strauss, announced the arrest of Epstein’s longtime girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, on charges related to the abuse of young girls. When asked, the prosecutor said the timing of the arrest of Maxwell — who had traveled in Trump’s social circles — was “not at all” related to Berman’s firing.A lawyer representing several Epstein accusers said Grand Jury activity could give clues about the timing, but records from it are sealed.Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
In June, President Donald Trump fired New York’s top federal prosecutor, Geoffrey Berman.Berman, who Trump nominated as the US Attorney for the Southern District Attorney job in the first place, had overseen multiple prosecutions of Trump’s associates. He had also prosecuted Jeffrey Epstein, a one-time Trump friend, on sex-trafficking charges.Less than two weeks after Trump booted Berman from his office, his replacement, Audrey Strauss, announced the arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell.Maxwell is the longtime girlfriend of Epstein, a convicted sex offender who was facing charges from Berman’s office before his death last year. She, Epstein, and Trump were friends in the 1990s and early 2000s. Accusers say Maxwell recruited girls at Trump’s Florida Mar-a-Lago resort for grooming in her and Epstein’s sex abuse ring.
On Thursday, Strauss said the timing of Maxwell’s arrest was “not at all” related to Trump firing Berman.And in Thursday’s press conference and court filings, prosecutors said they kept a close eye on Maxwell’s whereabouts in the year since Epstein was arrested and killed himself in jail, and that they only arrested her once the indictment was “ready.”Geoffrey Berman brought charges against Jeffrey Epstein last summerIt’s been almost a year since Berman brought sex trafficking charges against Epstein, who has been accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls. Maxwell was charged Thursday with grooming some of those young girls, by befriending them and getting them accustomed to sex, before the abuse would begin. The federal indictment accuses Maxwell of having minors watch her give massages, including sexual massages, to Epstein and then have them join in. Sometimes they would be nude or partially nude during the massage, the documents say.
She also faces two perjury charges that allege she lied under oath during an investigation into Epstein’s behavior.
Geoffrey Berman was fired in June.
Attorney Spencer T. Kuvin, who represents nearly a dozen of Epstein’s accusers — but not the three involved in Maxwell’s case — told Insider Thursday that there are a number of factors that could have played into the timing of the socialite’s arrest.He noted that the indictment came from a Grand Jury, where a group of citizens was presented with the case, and prosecutors brought witnesses before the charges were brought.”We don’t know the timing of that, and obviously Grand Jury minutes are sealed, but they had to wait for that to finish,” Kuvin said. “Second, as I mentioned, it’s the one year anniversary of Mr. Epstein’s arrest, so I’m sure that that’s not an insignificant date to the US attorney’s office.”
Berman’s departure also could have been a factor, in the sense that the office might have wanted to prove that it was continuing on with his work despite his firing. “With the firing of Mr. Berman, the US Attorney’s office probably wanted to reinvigorate itself by stepping forward by saying ‘We’re going to continue with doing everything Mr. Berman was doing regardless of the fact he was fired,'” Kuvin said. “So they brought some of the largest charges they could against one of the most notable people in the world.”