Let’s Keep An Eye on This

One sub-thread to the Cohen investigation is that the US Attorney in Manhattan (SDNY) recused himself from involvement in the case. It’s been assumed that that was because of his ties to Trump. Trump appointed him (he hasn’t actually been confirmed yet or technically even nominated). He made campaign contributions to candidate Trump and even did some work on the transition. But most notably he sat for a personal interview with the President while he was being considered for the post. That is entirely irregular, though there’s no particular rule against it. It’s been widely assumed that some combination of those factors triggered Berman’s recusal. But this new New York Times piece suggests that’s not the case.

This part is a bit buried. One of my colleagues flagged it to my attention. According to the Times, sometime earlier this year, apparently in January, Berman contacted DOJ officials in Washington to tell them there were issues that might require his recusal in the then-secret Cohen probe. Main Justice agreed and he recused himself.

This part of the Times piece is key (emphasis added) …

Mr. Berman is not known to have any connection to Mr. Cohen. A former Southern District prosecutor, Mr. Berman is a registered Republican, donated $2,700 to the Trump campaign and did some part-time volunteer work for Mr. Trump’s transition team.

Although Mr. Berman had been law partners with Rudolph W. Giuliani, another former Southern District United States attorney and one of Mr. Trump’s most vocal supporters, that connection was not a factor in the recusal, according to the people briefed on the matter.

Also not a factor in the recusal, one person said, was the personal interview that Mr. Trump conducted with Mr. Berman last year as part of the selection process. Mr. Berman has not disclosed publicly details of any such meeting.

I’m having some difficulty interpreting these three paragraphs. The gist of the whole passage seems to say that none of the factors I noted above are the reason for his recusal. It explicitly rules out his connections with Giuliani and the personal interview. It certainly reads like it’s not saying it was not the campaign contributions or transition work either, though narrowly speaking I’m not sure it says that explicitly.

If it’s none of those, why did he have to recuse himself?