Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and it involves Trump’s nominees for the District Attorney role in New York’s Southern District.
Securities and Exchange Committee Chairman Jay Clayton sought to deflect Democrats questions about his selection for the job and the circumstances under which Berman was removed over the weekend, characterizing the Senate confirmation process as “way down the road.” But when pressed by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y) to “commit, right here, to recusing yourself” from matters in which the president has a personal stake, Clayton demurred.
“What I will commit to do, which is what I commit to in my current job, is to approach the job with independence and to follow all ethical rules,” Clayton responded; Appearing before a House Financial Services subcommittee.
According to The Washington Post; The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is pursuing investigations involving Trump, his company and close associates, including the president’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, Maloney noted. She called the timing of Berman’s ouster “very suspicious.”
Attorney General William Barr announced Clayton’s nomination in a news release late Friday night. Barr indicated at the time that Berman intended to step down early next month and that the U.S. attorney in neighboring New Jersey would run the Manhattan office on an interim basis.
In an interview with NPR on Thursday, Barr dismissed critics assertions that he replaced Berman as a means to protect the president. “Given the current environment, anytime you make a personnel move, you know, conspiracy theorists will suggest that there’s something there’s some ulterior motive involved,” he said. “But I felt this was actually a good time to do it because I was not aware of anything that that should in reality, give rise to that.”
Even though Thursday’s hearing was intended to focus on the economy, it was quickly overshadowed by the controversy surrounding Clayton’s nomination ; a process he characterized in a prepared opening statement as “multifaceted and uncertain,” nor one that requires “my current attention.”
Clayton, who lacks prior experience as a prosecutor, repeatedly touted his work alongside federal prosecutors in his role atop the SEC, and highlighted his network of associates who are alumni of the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office.
A number of the panel’s Democrats grilled Clayton on his role in the shakeup at the federal prosecutors office asking whether he knew that Berman did not intend to step down and when it was first discussed he might take over there.
Clayton’s nomination to take over the job may already be in trouble. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, signaled over the weekend that he would honor the so called “blue slip” veto system granting home-state senators a say in whose nomination proceeds. Several Democrats, including those the Democratic senators from New York, have called on Clayton to withdraw his nomination.