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Trump’s U.S. Attorney Pick to Stay at SEC Pending Confirmation

Ben Bain

(Bloomberg) -- Jay Clayton isn’t planning to leave his post as chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission while the Senate considers whether to approve him for a new job under contentious circumstances.

The SEC chief was tapped by President Donald Trump in a surprise move late Friday to become the chief federal prosecutor in New York. The man he would replace, Geoffrey S. Berman, has said he won’t leave until a replacement is confirmed by the Senate -- and the timing of that is unclear.

Clayton, 53, whose pending nomination has set off a political firestorm, said in a brief email to SEC staff early Saturday that “pending confirmation, I will remain fully committed to the work of the Commission.” In the message, a copy of which was reviewed by Bloomberg News, Clayton said “it is a great honor to be considered for this important position.”

Berman, the powerful U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in an extraordinary statement that he hadn’t resigned -- directly contradicting his boss, U.S. Attorney General William Barr -- and wasn’t going anywhere until senators confirmed a replacement.

The back-and-forth has thrust Clayton, a political independent who has largely remained out of political controversies as Trump’s SEC chairman, into the center of a major legal fight that threatens to embroil the Justice Department and Congress, months before the presidential election.

The administration’s move to replace Berman, who volunteered for Trump’s presidential transition team, is controversial because the U.S. attorney in Manhattan oversees federal prosecutors who’ve pursued investigations into the president, his companies, and people close to him.

A spokeswoman for Clayton at the SEC didn’t immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

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