When President Trump lashed out at Special Counsel Robert Mueller after the FBI raided the office, residences, and bank deposit box of Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, commentators pointed out that the prosecutor who authorized the raid was Geoffrey Berman, Trump’s personally selected U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. But soon after taking the job in January, The New York Times reports, “Berman notified Justice Department officials in Washington of a possible appearance of conflict of interest in the then-undisclosed Cohen investigation, and officials concluded that he should be recused, according to people briefed on the matter.”
It is unclear why Berman recused himself, the Times said, and its reporters could only rule out reasons he had to hand control of the investigation to his handpicked deputy, Robert S. Khuzami. Berman, a registered Republican who donated to and volunteered for the Trump campaign, is not known to have any ties to Cohen, did not recuse himself because he was a law partner with Trump supporter Rudolph Giuliani, and did not step aside because of Trump’s unusual decision to personally interview him for the job, the Times said.
The White House now reportedly considers the Cohen investigation, which has been secretly going on for months, a bigger existential threat to Trump’s presidency than Mueller’s Russia investigation, and people who have worked in or observed the Manhattan federal prosecutor’s office — sometimes “jokingly referred to as the ‘Sovereign District,'” the Times says — don’t disagree with the White House assessment. “The office has been historically known for its independence of the Justice Department,” John S. Martin Jr., a former U.S. attorney in Manhattan and former federal judge, tells the Times. “That’s what makes it so powerful in this investigation, and such a danger to Donald Trump.” You can read more about Khuzami and the other people running the Cohen investigation at The New York Times. Peter Weber