President Trump’s nominee to replace U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman after his messy firing wouldn’t commit to recusing himself from pending investigations involving Trump’s interests and associates upon his potential confirmation.
During a House Financial Services subcommittee hearing on Thursday, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton dodged when pressed by Democrats regarding the President’s selection for him to take over the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the circumstances surrounding Berman’s tumultuous removal over the weekend.
When asked by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) on whether he can “commit, right here, to recusing yourself” from matters linked to the President, Clayton wouldn’t give a direct answer to the question.
“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 said.
Berman initially refused to step down after Attorney General Bill Barr announced his abrupt departure in a news release late last Friday night. Barr claimed that Berman intended to resign early next month and that the U.S. attorney in New Jersey would run the Manhattan office until Clayton’s confirmation. Berman denied Barr’s claim in a statement hours later by saying that he did not intend to resign and that he wants to ensure “important cases continue unimpeded.”
The next day, 0n Saturday night, the 24-hour stalemate between Barr and Berman ended after the attorney general told Berman that the President ordered his ouster and Berman agreed to step aside while his deputy continued to run the office. Trump, however, claimed that he had nothing to do with Berman’s firing.
On Monday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany claimed that Berman was ousted because Clayton, a former corporate lawyer, wanted to live in New York.
“Mr. Clayton wanted to go back to New York City,” McEnany told reporters during a White House press briefing. “We wanted to keep him in government and therefore he was given the position at SDNY.”
Watch Clayton’s remarks below: