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Schumer says he won't return blue slip if Trump nominates Clayton as US attorney

Schumer says he won't return blue slip if Trump nominates Clayton as US attorney
© Greg Nash

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerOvernight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases The five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Collins urges voters to turn out in Georgia runoffs MORE (D-N.Y.) said on Monday that he will not return a blue slip if the administration nominates Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton to be the next U.S. attorney for Manhattan.

“As the senator from New York, I will not return a blue slip on Mr. Clayton’s nomination,” Schumer said from the Senate floor.

Schumer’s opposition to Clayton could represent a significant roadblock to President TrumpDonald John TrumpGeraldo Rivera on Trump sowing election result doubts: 'Enough is enough now' Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race Scott Atlas resigns as coronavirus adviser to Trump MORE’s hopes of getting him confirmed as the next U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) as Trump takes sharp criticism over the ouster of U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman.

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham: Trump should attend Biden inauguration 'if' Biden wins Biden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate Georgia governor rejects Trump's call to 'overrule' elections officials with emergency powers MORE (R-S.C.) said over the weekend that he would “honor” the committee’s tradition of waiting to receive blue slips from home-state senators, which indicate if they support a nominee, before moving forward with the nomination. 

That would mean both Schumer and Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Defense: Defense bill among Congress's year-end scramble | Iranian scientist's assassination adds hurdles to Biden's plan on nuclear deal | Navy scrapping USS Bonhomme Richard after fire Democratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Social media responds to Harris making history: 'I feel like our ancestors are rejoicing' MORE (D-N.Y.) would get blue slips giving them the possibility of blocking Clayton by not returning the pieces of paper if the administration moves forward with the nomination. 

"As to processing U.S. Attorney nominations, it has always been the policy of the Judiciary Committee to receive blue slips from the home state senators before proceeding to the nomination," Graham said in a statement

"As chairman, I have honored that policy and will continue to do so," he added. 

Gillibrand has also signaled that she will oppose Clayton's nomination. 

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“I will not be complicit in helping President Trump and Attorney General Barr fire a U.S. attorney who is reportedly investigating corruption in this administration. Jay Clayton should withdraw his name from consideration immediately and remove himself from this sham," she said in a statement. 

Attorney General Bill Barr said over weekend that Berman was "stepping down" and that the administration was intending to nominate Clayton, who was a longtime corporate lawyer but has not worked as a federal prosecutor. 

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Monday that the president nominated Clayton for the role because Clayton "wanted to go back to New York City.”

“We wanted to keep him in government and therefore he was given the position at SDNY," McEnany said. 

It wouldn't be the first time a senator blocked the Senate from confirming a U.S. attorney by not returning their blue slip. 

Berman, for example, was not confirmed by the Senate after Gillibrand vowed to oppose his nomination and not return her blue slip. Instead, he was appointed by the federal district court to stay in the position until a nominee was confirmed by the Senate.

Schumer reiterated on Monday that he believes Clayton should withdraw himself from consideration. 

"Jay Clayton should withdraw his name from consideration and refuse to be an accomplice to this scheme. There appears to have been no legitimate motive to fire Mr. Berman, which leaves the obvious question: were President Trump and the Attorney General trying to remove him for a corrupt motive?" Schumer said on Monday.