The prosecutor leading the Jeffrey Epstein investigation who accused Prince Andrew of failing to co-operate has refused to step down after the US Justice Department announced he was resigning.
US attorney general William Barr said Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney in Manhattan, was resigning late on Friday night.
But Mr Berman said he had no intention of standing down and investigations he is involved in will continue “without delay or interruption”.
The lawyer accused the Duke of York of “shutting the door” on his investigation into convicted sex offender Epstein, who died last year.
His office has prosecuted a number of Donald Trump’s associates, including his former lawyer Michael Cohen, and is investigating his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, over his efforts to dig up dirt on Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his son in Ukraine.
The dramatic standoff marks the latest in a series of unusual actions by Mr Barr, which critics say are meant to benefit the president politically and undermine the independence of the Justice Department.
Mr Trump has tried to purge officials perceived as not fully supportive of him, sacking a series of agency watchdogs over the past few weeks, including one who played a key role in his impeachment earlier this year.
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In Mr Barr’s surprise announcement on Friday night, he said he was nominating securities and exchange commission chairman Jay Clayton to replace Mr Berman.
Mr Berman, whose office is known for prosecuting high-profile terrorism cases, Wall Street financial crimes and government corruption, said he first learned he was apparently resigning from Mr Barr’s press release.
“I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning my position,” Mr 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.”
Mr Berman is responsible for reigniting the dispute between the Duke of York and US authorities over his availability to answer questions about Epstein, whom he was friends with.
He accused the prince of attempting to “falsely portray himself to the public as eager and willing to co-operate” after the duke’s legal team said he had made three offers to give a witness statement but had heard nothing.
Prince Andrew’s team said the Department of Justice had breached “their own confidentiality rules” by claiming he had offered no co-operation.
Mr Berman’s refusal to step down comes as the Justice Department asks a federal court to block publication of a book by former national security adviser John Bolton, who claims Mr Trump tried to interfere with an investigation overseen by Mr Berman’s office.
The US Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, tweeted: “This late Friday night dismissal reeks of potential corruption of the legal process.
“What is angering President Trump? A previous action by this US Attorney or one that is ongoing?”
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House judiciary committee chairman Jerrold Nadler added that he will invite Mr Berman to testify.
Mr Berman’s predecessor, Preet Bharara, a critic of the president who was sacked after Mr Trump was elected, said the timing of the attempt to fire Mr Berman was odd.
“Why does a president get rid of his own hand-picked US Attorney in SDNY on a Friday night, less than five months before the election?” he wrote on Twitter, referring to the upcoming US presidential election in November.