Two former federal prosecutors turned white-collar criminal defense attorneys have been floated as contenders for the open U.S. Attorney post in New Jersey. Geoffrey Berman is President Donald Trump’s likely choice for the top federal law enforcement position, according to New Jersey members of Trump’s transition team. However, in recent days, the state’s Republican Congressional delegation has sent a letter to Trump recommending Craig Carpenito.
Geoffrey Berman – A Major Republican Donor
Federal Election Commission records show that Berman donated $5,400 to Trump’s campaign on July 28, 2016 and another $2,700 on September 15, 2016. Berman also donated $2,700 to Jeb Bush’s Presidential Campaign in 2015. In 2015, Berman donated $7,700 to U.S. Senator John McCain’s reelection campaign.
Suffice to say, Berman is a solid Republican. In recent years, Berman donated thousands to the New Jersey State Republican Committee, State Senator Joseph Kyrillos, Congressman Leonard Lance, and Congressman Jon Runyan.
Berman, an attorney at Greenberg Traurig, received a B.A. from University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business–also Trump’s alma mater. He went on to receive his law degree from Stanford in 1984. In the early 1990s, Berman was an Assistant United States Attorney in Manhattan. Prior to that, he served as an attorney in the Office of Special Counsel investigating the Iran-Contra affair.
Many in New Jersey’s defense bar have privately praised Berman’s litigation skills. Critics of former U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman have argued that he failed to investigate corrupt Democratic Party politicians like former Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli. Having a Republican in the post may change the game.
Craig Carpenito – Defended Chris Christie Against Bridgegate Charges
Carpenito, who is being pushed by Christie for the post, was retained by Christie in 2016 to defend against official charges issued by a Bergen County judge arising out of the Bridgegate scandal. The charges, brought by renegade attorney Bill Brennan, were eventually dismissed by Bergen County Assignment Judge Bonnie Mizdol and former Bergen County First Assistant Prosecutor John Higgins. Brennan and many observers have questioned the propriety of the dismissal citing conflicts of interest in the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office.
Carpenito donated $1,000 to a political action committee which supported Christie’s 2016 Presidential campaign.
Carpenito currently co-leads Alston & Bird’s Litigation and Trial Practice Group and the firm’s Government and Internal Investigations Group, according to the firm’s website. Carpenito was hired by Christie when Christie served as the state’s U.S. Attorney.
Carpenito received a B.A. from Rider University in 1996 and his J.D. from Seton Hall in 2000.
With extensive experience in criminal law, both are generally more qualified than many others being floated for U.S. Attorney posts in other states. Even Christie lacked courtroom experience and extensive knowledge of criminal law when he assumed the position.
Carpenito, however, still has friends in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark. Generally that would be a plus, however, given the feud between Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Christie, it is likely to hurt Carpenito’s chances. Berman is an outsider as far as the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark is concerned.