Trump administration picks interim leaders for 17 posts
Christie lawyer, software executive also among appointees
By Christie Smythe, Chris Dolmetsch and Erik Larson
Rudy Giuliani’s law partner was named as top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, taking charge of an office that investigates Wall Street, international bribery and political corruption.
Geoffrey Berman was among 17 lawyers selected as interim U.S. Attorneys by the Trump administration, putting him in position to lead an office that has overseen some of the most significant investigations in the nation’s history. On Wednesday, the office won a conviction of a Turkish banker who helped Iran evade U.S. financial sanctions in a case that roiled relations between the American government and Turkey.
A Long Island software executive, Richard Donoghue, was picked as interim U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, an office which has recently pursued a sprawling investigation into corruption in international soccer and brought a successful fraud prosecution of former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli. He will also take over a probe of a real estate business owned by the family of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
The administration selected Craig Carpenito to serve as interim U.S. Attorney in New Jersey, a plum post that Governor Chris Christie held for seven years before resigning to prepare for his gubernatorial bid in 2009.
It remains to be seen how the appointees will seek to shape their offices. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has repeatedly said his priorities for federal prosecutors include crackdowns on immigration and violent crimes. He has said less about Wall Street and financial crimes, long a focus of the districts in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
“As a former U.S. Attorney myself, I have seen firsthand the impact that these prosecutors have,” Sessions said in a statement.
Those appointed on Wednesday may serve as long as 120 days without being confirmed by the Senate. After that, a U.S. judge in the district must make a temporary appointment until the administration and lawmakers agree on a permanent selection. Some of them succeed acting U.S. Attorneys whose 300-day terms expire on Thursday; the acting U.S. Attorneys were appointed after President Donald Trump fired Obama administration holdovers last year.
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In Manhattan, Berman succeeds acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim, who took over from Preet Bharara. When he was fired, Bharara had been investigating Deutsche Bank AG, the largest known lender to Trump’s businesses, and 21st Century Fox Inc. over whether it should have disclosed to investors that it made secret settlement payments to female on-air hosts who alleged sexual harassment.
A native of Trenton, New Jersey, where his father was a real estate developer, Berman graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1981 and its Wharton School. He got his law degree from Stanford Law School in 1984, and then went on to clerk for Judge Leonard I. Garth at the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.
He served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan in the early 1990s, where he handled complex criminal prosecutions, including securities and computer-hacking cases, according to the website of Greenberg Traurig, where he andGiuliani are partners. In the late 1980s, Berman was part of a team that successfully prosecuted Thomas Clines, a former CIA official connected to the Iran-Contra investigation, on tax charges.
Berman joined Greenberg Traurig in April 2006 and now is the co-managing shareholder of its New Jersey office. In private practice, he has represented a precious metals trader in a “spoofing” probe by the Justice Department and foreign exchange traders in connection with an investigation by the New York Department of Financial services, according to the firm’s website.
“I don’t think he’d be there to grandstand,” said Ronald Chen, co-dean of the Rutgers Law School, who served as a clerk for the same federal judge as Berman and squared off against him in court years later. “He’s a very effective but also a reasonable person. It’s a good quality in a U.S. attorney.”
Berman’s family owned the Trenton Titans, a minor league hockey team, from 1998 to 2002, according to league Commissioner Brian McKenna, who served as president and general manager for the team under Berman.
Berman has been an “active supporter of the Republican Party for many years,” and worked on the legal team for President Trump’s transition team, according to its general counsel, Bill Palatucci. “He was there early and often.”
Donoghue, who holds a degree from St. John’s University School of Law, served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Brooklyn and Long Island, New York, for more than 10 years. He also worked as senior vice president at software firm CA Technologies in Islandia, New York.
He served as the chief of the criminal division where he supervised prosecutors probing terrorism, complex white-collar fraud, public corruption, organized crime, gangs, health care fraud and narcotics distribution.
“He has either prosecuted himself, or supervised virtually every kind of prosecution that the office encounters from violent gangs to white-collar crime to public corruption,” Kelly Currie, a former prosecutor in the office, said.
Carpenito worked as a white-collar prosecutor under Christie, helping to secure a key conviction in a major accounting fraud case a decade ago. As a defense lawyer, he represented Christie in a lawsuit arising from the scandal known as Bridgegate, which led to the convictions of three Christie allies and helped to ruin Christie’s approval ratings.
Carpenito helped to prosecute former Cendant Corp. Chairman Walter Forbes for leading an accounting fraud in the 1990s that foreshadowed larger scandals at Enron Corp. and WorldCom Inc. Christie put Carpenito on the case after jurors convicted one executive but deadlocked on Forbes.
After a second mistrial, Carpenito and another prosecutor won a conviction of Forbes at a third trial in 2006. They attacked the claim by Forbes that he was a visionary who was ignorant of company finances and operations.
While at Alston & Bird LLP in New York, Carpenito handled internal investigations and represented clients under scrutiny by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, where he once worked.(Updates with additional comments. A previous version of this article was corrected for Chris Christie’s status as New Jersey governor.)–With assistance from David Voreacos and Patricia Hurtado.