President Donald Trump's Justice Department is announcing 17 interim appointments to lead U.S. attorneys offices across the country. And its choice for the attorney to handle much of New York City is raising eyebrows because of his ties to former New York City mayor and Trump backer Rudolph Giuliani.
Geoffrey Berman is a former U.S. assistant attorney and partner at Giuliani's law form, according to CNN. He was part of a wave of appointments made by Sessions on Wednesday so that the attorney general could beat a 300-day expiration date under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. After Sessions asked almost 50 U.S. attorneys to resign after taking over the Justice Department in March, he had until Thursday to fill those positions. By appointing interim replacements now, the Trump administration can now have their preferences in charge of those offices for at least 120 days without needing to be confirmed by the Senate.
Berman's situation is unique because he has been asked to lead the Southern District of New York, which used to be led by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Because much of Trump's business empire falls within that district, including the famous Trump Tower, Berman could wind up having influence over cases that directly involve Trump's personal legal issues (Bharara later speculated that if he had stayed, Trump would have eventually asked him to do something inappropriate). That is why it raised eyebrows that Berman is closely connected to Giuliani, a staunch Trump supporter who the president is rumored to have considered at various times for secretary of state and attorney general.
It is also problematic because it was reported that Trump met with Berman personally late last year to discuss the openings.
The New York spot is one of the most important ones in the country, simply because it can directly impact Trump and his family.
"That is a district where there may be cases or investigations concerning the president and his family and business associates and he might have interests in them," Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told Salon in November. "And that raises an additional level of concern as to whether he is trying to potentially curry favor with someone who might be making decisions on investigations or cases that matter to him."