MANHATTAN (CN) - Tapping stand-ins Wednesday for 17 federal prosecutors abruptly fired last year by President Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions bought a three-month window to install administration-friendly replacements.
Among the most closely watched of these offices is New York’s Southern District, home to Trump Tower and other Manhattan properties owned by the president.
When Trump demanded the resignations of 46 Obama-era U.S. attorneys, Preet Bharara in Manhattan made headlines for getting fired after he refused to heed the call.
Leaving the Southern District in the hands of his deputy, Joon Kim, Bharara has since become an outspoken media critic of the Trump White House.
Facing a 300-day limit on how long acting prosecutors can stay in office, Sessions was under a tight deadline to name successors for Bharara and the other prosecutors.
Geoffrey Berman, whose appointment to the Manhattan office will take effect on Friday, had been an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District back in the 1990s, but more recently has been in private practice at the firm Greenberg Traurig.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a top surrogate for Trump on the 2016 campaign trail, belongs to the same firm.
Reacting to Wednesday’s appointments, another former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District called Berman a natural selection.
“It is important that an alumnus of the office was selected as the proposed nominee,” said Carrie Cohen, who now works at Morrison & Foerster. “Adherence to this tradition helps ensure that the office will continue to investigate matters, seek indictments, and bring cases without fear or favor.”
Sessions meanwhile praised Berman’s record, noting his role as associate counsel in the Iran-Contra investigations where he successfully prosecuted a former CIA employee for tax fraud.
Berman’s appointment comes as Acting U.S. Attorney Kim entered the last 100 days of his term.
Though fairly customary for the 93 U.S. attorneys to leave their posts once a new president is in office, Trump’s abrupt dismissals of the prosecutors in March left an uncertain playing field for Sessions find prosecutors who would take up the administration’s loosely defined “law-and-order” platform.
At the year’s close, the Senate confirmed 46 U.S. attorneys and 12 more have been nominated.
As with all 17 of the prosecutors appointed Wednesday, Berman’s leadership comes with a 120-day time limit. At that point the Trump administration must nominate permanent U.S. attorneys whose appointments would then be confirmed by the Senate.
Some of the other interim appointees include Richard Donoghue for the Eastern District of New York.
Donoguhue, who served 11 years as a prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York, will replace Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde.
Their Trump-purged predecessor, Robert Capers, has since joined the New York office of Arent Fox LLP.
In his announcement on Donoghue, Sessions emphasized the Justice Department’s crackdown on the violent gang syndicate known as the MS-13. “Every MS-13 member in Long Island should know, Richard Donoghue will use all the tools at his disposal to get criminals off our streets,” Sessions said.
The Eastern District of New York includes Suffolk County in Long Island, where Trump gave a speech last summer on gang violence to a crowd of uniformed police officers.
Trump praised increased arrests by police and immigration enforcements, telling the Long Island crowd: “They’re liberating the town. Like in the old Wild West, right? We’re liberating our towns. I never thought I’d be standing up here talking about liberating towns on Long Island where I grew up.”
According to a statement from the Eastern District of New York, Acting U.S. Attorney Rohde will resume her role as first assistant U.S. attorney.
Other appointees include Craig Carpenito in New Jersey. A white-collar defense and securities lawyer, Carpenito spent much of the last year representing another former prosecutor and onetime Trump surrogate, the outgoing Gov. Chris Christie. Though never indicted, Christie saw his second term and his national ambitions marred by the Bridgegate scandal that grew out of his office.
Other appointees, including Stephen Dambruch in Rhode Island and Gregory Brooker in Minnesota, have already been serving as acting U.S. attorneys.
"It is critical to have U.S. attorneys in place during this time of rising violent crime, a staggering increase in homicides, and an unprecedented drug crisis," Sessions said in a statement, adding that his picks have "excellent prosecution skills and the temperament necessary to succeed in this critical role."Follow @jruss_jruss
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