National News

Lacking Nominee, Judges Pick U.S. Attorney

Posted April 25, 2018 9:38 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK — Exercising a seldom-used power, the judges of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan voted unanimously on Wednesday to appoint Geoffrey S. Berman as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, according to a court statement.

Berman was appointed interim U.S. attorney in January, and that 120-day term was due to expire next week. With no one yet nominated by President Donald Trump for the Southern District position, the judges acted to fill the post with Berman.

Under federal law, he will now serve until the Senate confirms a nominee by Trump, whose administration has been slow to fill many posts in the executive and judicial branches.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan is overseeing the federal investigation of Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, and it recently emerged that Berman has been recused, for undisclosed reasons. His deputy, Robert S. Khuzami, is overseeing the inquiry.

Trump has called an FBI raid on Cohen’s office, home and hotel room “a disgraceful situation” and a “total witch hunt.”

Berman, 58, was one of 17 U.S. attorneys around the country appointed in January on an interim basis by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

About 40 judges were eligible to vote on Berman’s appointment, according to a court list. Many had once served as Southern District prosecutors, as had Berman, who worked in the office from 1990 to 1994.

Berman, in a brief statement, said he had been notified of the appointment by the court’s chief judge, Colleen McMahon, and was grateful for the court’s action. He said he looked forward to “continuing the great tradition of this office to pursue justice without fear or favor.”

The potential nomination of Berman, a Republican donor to Trump and a former law partner of Rudolph W. Giuliani (who last week became one of Trump’s lawyers), has not been without controversy. The two Democratic senators from New York, Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, had indicated that they would oppose Berman’s potential nomination, with Gillibrand’s office citing reports that Trump had personally interviewed Berman as part of the selection process.

During his brief tenure, Berman has overseen several high-profile cases, including a trial that ended last month in which Joseph Percoco, a former senior aide to New York’s Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, and three other defendants were convicted on federal corruption charges.