January 3, 2018 / 8:46 PM / a year ago

U.S. Attorney General appoints 17 interim top prosecutors

(Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday appointed 17 current and former federal prosecutors as interim U.S. Attorneys in jurisdictions around the country, the Department of Justice said.

The interim posts are for 120 days unless those holding them are re-appointed by a court or officially nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, a Justice Department official said.

It is unclear if those named on Wednesday will also be nominated. Some may face political opposition, as U.S. senators traditionally have some say in the nominations of U.S. Attorneys who would serve within their states.

Many of Sessions’ appointments were in Democratic-leaning states such as New York, New Jersey and California. The Republicans hold the majority in the Senate.

Among those named was Geoffrey Berman, who served on Republican Trump’s transition team. Berman will become the interim top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, a jurisdiction that is well known for terrorism cases, prosecutions of Wall Street financial crimes and government corruption.

Berman, who was an assistant U.S. Attorney in Manhattan from 1990 to 1994, is a partner at the law firm of Greenberg Traurig. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, another supporter of Trump’s presidential run in 2016, practices at the same firm.

Preet Bharara held the Manhattan U.S. Attorney post until March when he and 45 other U.S. Attorneys from the Obama administration were asked to resign. Bharara refused and was fired.

Manhattan and a number of other U.S. Attorney offices then had their second-in-commands elevated to serve as Acting U.S. Attorneys, a role that has a statutory limit.

The Department of Justice said in announcing the interim appointments that some of those time limits were expiring on Thursday.

Richard Donoghue, who served in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn from 2000 to 2011, will become the interim there on Thursday. In a statement, Sessions said Donoghue has experience prosecuting the MS-13 gang. Trump has often cited the violent Central American gang in arguing for restricting immigration.

A spokesman for Chuck Schumer, one of two Democratic U.S. Senators from New York, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Berman. But in a statement, the senator said Trump had consulted him about Donoghue, whom he praised as a “no-nonsense prosecutor and an appropriate choice” for the Brooklyn post.

Once Donoghue takes the post, Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde will resume her role as First Assistant United States Attorney.

Joon Kim, who took over in Manhattan after Bharara was fired, will leave the office tomorrow, a spokeswoman said, declining to comment on his future plans.

Reporting by Karen Freifeld; and Nathan Layne; editing by Grant McCool

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