US attorney’s ouster thrusts market regulator into unwelcome spotlight

This article is more than 12 months old

WASHINGTON The surprise decision by the US Department of Justice to replace a top federal prosecutor has thrust one of the Trump administration's more low-profile, bipartisan officials into the spotlight, shocking people who know and have worked with him.

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chairman Jay Clayton has come under enormous pressure to spurn his nomination to replace US Attorney in Manhattan Geoffrey Berman, who was fired by President Donald Trump on Saturday after refusing to resign in a Friday night statement.

In his post at the Southern District of New York (SDNY), Mr Berman had led the prosecution of high profile corruption and Wall Street crimes, and had been investigating Mr Trump's personal lawyer, Mr Rudolph Giuliani.

Mr Clayton could not be reached for comment. His spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

"Clayton can allow himself to be used in the brazen Trump-Barr scheme to interfere in investigations by the US attorney for SDNY, or he can stand up to this corruption, withdraw his name from consideration, and save his own reputation from overnight ruin," the Senate's top Democrat, Mr Chuck Schumer, tweeted on Saturday.

Mr Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee, said he had not been consulted on Mr Clayton's nomination and that he still planned to seek approvals from New York Senators Schumer and his fellow Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, as is usual practice.

The episode has stunned current and former SEC officials and lawyers who have worked with Mr Clayton, a former corporate attorney and political independent who - until now - has steered well clear of partisan controversy.

It also raises questions about the future leadership of the SEC, which could potentially fall to ranking Republican commissioner Hester Peirce, an ultra-conservative who frequently votes against penalising companies for wrongdoing. - REUTERS