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

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamLet's give thanks to Republican defenders of Democracy Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight 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 SchumerUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration Voters say Biden should make coronavirus vaccine a priority: poll New York City subway service could be slashed 40 percent, officials warn MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Social media responds to Harris making history: 'I feel like our ancestors are rejoicing' Ocasio-Cortez says she doesn't plan on 'staying in the House forever' 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 BarrClyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Five federal inmates scheduled for execution before Inauguration Day Redeeming justice: the next attorney general 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."