CNN has learned that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has tapped a slew of current and former federal prosecutors to lead 17 US attorneys' offices on an interim basis, according to a Justice Department official -- including Geoffrey Berman, a former assistant US attorney and Rudy Giuliani's law partner, for the Southern District of New York, which covers Manhattan, and who CNN reported was personally interviewed
by President Donald Trump last year. As interim US Attorney for that district, Berman could potentially have oversight over any federal investigations into the Trump Organization in Manhattan.
Sessions also selected former Assistant US Attorney Richard Donoghue for the Eastern District of New York and Craig Carpenito, an ally of Republican former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Bridgegate attorney, as interim head for New Jersey.
Seven of the 17 interim appointments are currently serving as the acting US attorneys in their districts. The remaining 10 are new appointments.
Nearly 50 US attorneys were asked to resign
last March when Sessions took over at the Justice Department, leaving their first assistants to serve as acting heads under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.
Wednesday's flurry of appointments result from a little noticed 300-day expiration date under the statute -- which would have left the top spots empty Thursday if Sessions did not act and now allows the Trump administration some wiggle room to have their picks lead the offices without Senate confirmation for at least 120 days.
The new batch of interim US attorneys named by Sessions, under a different federal statute, may also serve while being the eventual nominees for those positions.
And while Democrats are likely to criticize the move as an attempt to bypass the Senate confirmation process, particularly in powerful positions like the Southern District of New York, the interim appointments are not unique to Sessions.
In 2015, Channing Phillips was appointed by then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch to serve as interim US attorney for DC (before being appointed by the district court), and in 2012 Dana Boente was appointed by then-Attorney General Eric Holder to serve as the interim US attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
As of Wednesday, 12 of Trump's US attorney nominees await Senate confirmation.
The full list of Wednesday's 17 interim appointments is as follows:
- Shawn Anderson -- Districts of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands
- Geoffrey Berman -- Southern District of New York
- Gregory Brooker -- District of Minnesota
- Craig Carpenito -- District of New Jersey
- Stephen Dambruch -- District of Rhode Island
- Richard Donoghue -- Eastern District of New York
- Dayle Elieson -- District of Nevada
- Duane Evans -- Eastern District of Louisiana
- Timothy Garrison -- Western District of Missouri
- Nick Hanna -- Central District of California
- Joseph Harrington -- Eastern District of Washington
- Grant Jaquith -- Northern District of New York
- Maria Chapa Lopez -- Middle District of Florida
- Kenji Price -- District of Hawaii
- Matthew Schneider -- Eastern District of Michigan
- Gretchen Shappert -- District of the Virgin Islands
- Alexander Van Hook -- Western District of Louisiana