Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham indicated he won’t take up a nomination for the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York without the approval of Democratic New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.
Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said he would not move forward with a nominee until he gets a “blue slip,” a paper showing support for the nominee from senators of the state whose attorney is under consideration. Non-receipt of blue slips is traditionally a way for senators to block nominees in their home states.
“As to processing U.S. Attorney nominations, it has always been the policy of the Judiciary Committee to receive blue slips from the home state senators before proceeding to the nomination,” Graham said in a statement. “As chairman, I have honored that policy and will continue to do so.”
The remarks come after the Justice Department announced Friday evening that Geoffrey Berman would be leaving his role as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, which he quickly denied in a statement.
“I learned in a press release from the Attorney General tonight that I was ‘stepping down’ as United States Attorney. I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position, to which I was appointed by the Judges of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York,” he said. “I will step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate.”
Trump reportedly intends to nominate Jay Clayton, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to replace Berman, although whether that is happening is unclear given Graham’s comments on the matter. According to CNN, Barr personally asked Berman to resign during an in-person meeting on Friday, and Berman, who has overseen cases against Trump’s allies, refused.
Schumer and Gillibrand have both called for Clayton to withdraw his nomination.
“Forty-seven years ago, Elliott Richardson had the courage to say no to a gross abuse of presidential power. Jay Clayton has a similar choice today: He can allow himself to be used in the brazen Trump-Barr scheme to interfere in investigations by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, or he can stand up to this corruption, withdraw his name from consideration, and save his own reputation from overnight ruin,” Schumer said in a statement, making a reference to Richardson, who resigned after President Richard Nixon asked him to fire Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor investigating Watergate.
“I will not be complicit in helping President Trump and Attorney General Barr fire a U.S. attorney who is reportedly investigating corruption in this administration,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “Jay Clayton should withdraw his name from consideration immediately and remove himself from this sham.”