The interim U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of New York Geoffrey S. Berman is an appointee of Pres. Donald Trump.
Berman’s job at the SDNY is to “oversees the investigation and litigation of all criminal and civil cases” there.
The raid on Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen’s office, home and hotel room Monday April 9 by federal agents armed with warrants would have fallen under Berman’s purview, the man the president chose to lead one of the most important and prestigious U.S. Attorney’s offices in the nation.
But Tuesday, several news outlets reported that sources said Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein signed off on both Berman’s recusal from the investigation and the warrants for the Michael Cohen searches.
The Washington Post reported that Cohen “is under federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations, according to three people with knowledge of the case.”
Here’s what you need to know about Berman, a Republican who gave to the President’s campaign:
1. Berman Was Personally Interviewed by Trump For the Job as A Top Federal Prosecuter
In August of 2017, Politico reported Trump personally interviewed Berman, “a move that critics say raises questions about whether they can be sufficiently independent from the president,” for the job as the U.S. Attorney in New York’s Southern District. Five months later, Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Bernam to the post as interim chief. An executive move, Sessions was permitted by law to fill a vacant position.
Berman was not confirmed by the U.S. Senate and is serving in an interim role as one of the nation’s top federal prosecutors. And he’ll remain ‘intereim’ until he’s confirmed. It’s not clear if or when a hearing date will be set.
In announcing the appointment, Sessions said Berman “brings three decades of invaluable experience,” to the post. Sessions said Berman would “lead an incredible team of attorneys and investigators and help provide New Yorkers with safety, security, and peace of mind. I am pleased to appoint him to this important role.”
2. Berman, a Law Partner of Rudy Giuliani, replaced Former SDNY U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara Who Was Fired by Trump After Refusing to Resign
Bharara was fired a year ago by Trump in March after refusing to resign. Sessions asked the vast majority of U.S. Attorney’s, Obama administration federal prosecutors, to resign.
Bharara who had served as top prosecutor for seven years declined and so Trump fired him.
Bharara reacted to the news of the SDNY-approved federal raid on Twitter today with a simple, ‘Hello.’
3. Berman, Appointed by US AG Jeff Sessions, is a Former U.S. Attorney & Prosecuted an Iran-Contra CIA Agent for Tax Fraud
According to the DOJ and in a statement from Sessions, Berman was described as having been an Iran-Contra prosectuter. Sessions praised Berman’s work as “part of the prosecution team charged with investigating the Iran-Contra matter and served as a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York.”
Berman is currently a principal shareholder in the New York and New Jersey offices of Greenberg Traurig. From 1990 to 1994, he was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, where he handled complex criminal prosecutions, including tax, securities and computer hacking violations. Before that Berman was an Associate Counsel in the Office of Independent Counsel Iran-Contra, where he successfully prosecuted a former CIA employee for tax fraud.
And Berman clerked for Judge Leonard Garth of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Berman received his B.A., magna cum laude, from University of Pennsylvania and his B.A., beta gamma sigma, from the Wharton School. And Berman received his J.D. from Stanford Law School, where he was Note Editor of the Stanford Law Review.
4. The Attorney’s at the SDNY aka the ‘Sovereign District of New York’ Have ‘Top-Dog Status’
In a New Yorker feature written by Nicholas Lemann about then-SDNY U.S. Attorney Mary J White, the writer explained that a gig working for a U.S. Attorney is “a prestigious job for lawyers,” but working for the Southern District of New York whose sweeping jurisdiction includes Manhattan, the Bronx, and the burbs just north, “has had a special, top-dog status ever since President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Henry Stimson, later Secretary of State and, three times, Secretary of War, to the post.” Lemann wrote the “office’s nickname is the Sovereign District of New York.”
Lemann wrote the creme de la creme get posts at the SDNY and often “went to the best law schools, were elected to law reviews, and clerked for federal judges.” Alum include Rudy Giuliani and Jim Comey. Lemann wrote in 2013, that lawyers there work “in close cooperation with cops and F.B.I. agents, they prosecute the biggest, baddest, scariest criminals: evil billionaires, the Mafia, drug gangs, terrorists. This gives them macho points in addition to their academic credentials.”
In other words, if that’s your office, you’ve arrived.
Berman is the top dog there, if in the ‘interim,’ until confirmed by Congress.
5. Born in New Jersey, Berman Married Attorney Joanne Schwartz in 1994, & the Couple Lives in New York
In a wedding announcement in The New York Times from 1994, Joanne Karen Schwartz, the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Louis W. Schwartz of Jenkintown, Pa., was married last evening to Geoffrey Steven Berman, a son of Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Berman of Princeton, N.J. Rabbi Harold Weintraub performed the ceremony at the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia.
Mrs. Berman, 27, is an associate in New York at Arnold & Porter, the Washington law firm. She graduated from Cornell University, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and received a law degree from New York University. Her father, an ophthalmologist, is also an associate professor of ophthalmology at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.
Mr. Berman, 34, is of counsel to Mudge Rose Guthrie Alexander & Ferdon, the New York law firm. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania and received a law degree from Stanford University. His father is a real estate investor and developer in Princeton.