Graham signals he won't take up U.S. attorney pick without Schumer, Gillibrand signoff

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMayorkas tests positive for COVID-19 breakthrough case A pandemic of hyper-hypocrisy is infecting American politics Republicans' mantra should have been 'Stop the Spread' MORE (R-S.C.) signaled on Saturday that he will not move forward with a nomination for the U.S. attorney for Manhattan without signoff from two Democratic senators. 

Graham said he would wait to receive a "blue slip" — a sheet of paper that indicates whether a home-state senator supports a nomination — before moving forward with a new nominee to be the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. 

"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." 

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If Graham sticks with his position, that would give Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerFixing Congress requires fixing how it legislates Beware the tea party of the left Bottom line MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Energy & Environment — Biden makes return to pre-Trump national monument boundaries official Biden signs bill to help victims of 'Havana syndrome' Lawmakers using leadership PACs as 'slush funds' to live lavish lifestyles: report MORE (D-N.Y.) leverage to try to block the administration's nominee for the spot from being confirmed by the Senate by not returning their blue slips. 

Graham's position would mark a significant roadblock for the administration's plan to nominate Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton to be the next Senate-confirmed U.S. attorney for Manhattan.

Attorney General William BarrBill BarrWhy it's time for conservatives to accept the 2020 election results and move on Bannon's subpoena snub sets up big decision for Biden DOJ Five takeaways: Report details Trump's election pressure campaign MORE announced on Friday night that the administration would nominate Clayton and that the current U.S. attorney for Manhattan, Geoffrey Berman, was "stepping down." Berman subsequently said that he had not resigned and would not do so until there was a Senate-confirmed successor. 

Schumer has criticized Barr for the attempt to oust Berman and called on Clayton to withdraw his nomination. 

"Forty seven years ago, Elliott Richardson had the courage to say no to a gross abuse of presidential power. Jay Clayton has a similar choice today: He can allow himself to be used in the brazen Trump-Barr scheme to interfere in investigations by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, or he can stand up to this corruption, withdraw his name from consideration, and save his own reputation from overnight ruin," Schumer said in a statement.

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Senators in both parties have used not returning a blue slip as a procedural tactic to block nominations from their home states that they oppose from moving forward, though Senate Republicans will advance circuit court picks over the opposition of home-state senators. 

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

Graham complimented Clayton on Saturday, though he noted that he had not heard from the administration about its plan to nominate him. 

"According to Attorney General Barr, the Trump Administration intends to nominate Mr. Jay Clayton to be U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York," Graham said. "I have not been contacted by the administration in this regard. However, I know Mr. Clayton and believe him to be a fine man and accomplished lawyer."