Trump to nominate SEC chairman to replace US Attorney in New York

Tribune Content Agency

WASHINGTON — Geoffrey Berman, who has investigated close allies of President Donald Trump and others, is out as the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, with Trump planning to nominate U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton to replace him.

Berman is “stepping down” after 2 1/2 years in the post, Attorney General William Barr said. He gave no further details.

The late Friday evening announcement caught many by surprise and raised questions about the move, including from Preet Bharara, Berman’s predecessor whom Trump fired after he refused to quit.

A spokeman for Berman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

SDNY was pursuing several probes of the president’s business and his inaugural committee. In his congressional testimony, Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, whose conviction was secured by SDNY prosecutors, said he was cooperating with them on matters he couldn’t discuss.

In indicting Cohen, prosecutors said he acted at the direction of “Individual 1,” whom they didn’t identify. But Cohen said that individual was Trump.

Manhattan prosecutors also routinely handle the nation’s largest white-collar crime cases. The office has charged Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank with helping Iran evade sanctions on billions of dollars in oil funds. The bank has pleaded not guilty.

But according to the memoir by former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, Trump in 2018 told Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a Group of 20 meeting that he thought Halkbank “was totally innocent of violating U.S. Iran sanctions” and vowed to “take care of things.”

The Southern District of New York is an office that is used to high-profile cases, having won global attention a decade ago for its crackdown on insider trading. Earlier eras were defined by major prosecutions of corporate accounting cheats, terror conspirators, mafia bosses and corrupt politicos. Following the end of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the New York office may have entered its trickiest phase, as the lead authority scrutinizing the conduct of the leader of the free world and his close associates.

Craig Carpenito, currently the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, will serve as the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, while the Senate is considering Clayton’s nomination, Barr said.

“Jay has been an extraordinarily successful SEC chairman, overseeing efforts to modernize regulation of the capital markets, protect Main Street investors, enhance American competitiveness, and address challenges ranging from cybersecurity issues to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Barr said.

Before joining the SEC, Clayton was a partner in New York for the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell. At Sullivan & Cromwell, he earned millions of dollars representing some of the financial industry’s most well-known banks and hedge funds, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Pershing Square Capital Management. He also worked on the biggest initial public offering in U.S. history, helping Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. raise $25 billion in 2014.


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