March 22, 2019
By Christian Berthelsen
Robert Khuzami, the senior New York federal prosecutor who oversaw the prosecution of President Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen, is leaving his post to return to his home in Washington.
Khuzami led the team after Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman recused himself for reasons that remain unknown. While Cohen has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to three years in prison, the Southern District of New York, as Berman’s office is known, is continuing its investigation into whether others at the Trump Organization aided in campaign-finance violations or separate crimes.
Berman remains recused. Khuzami’s role as deputy U.S. attorney will be filled by Audrey Strauss, who most recently served as chief counsel in the office. Strauss is a former line prosecutor and appeals unit chief who also worked in private practice and rejoined the Southern District last year. She worked on the Independent Counsel’s staff probing the Iran Contra scandal in the later years of the Reagan administration.
“Rob has been commuting weekly from Washington D.C. since January 2018,” Berman said in the March 22 statement. “While his desire to continue to serve remains strong, he understandably has decided to return home to his family.”
Khuzami, who was enforcement chief at the Securities and Exchange Commission from 2009 to 2013, is scheduled to leave April 12. He didn’t immediately respond to an email message seeking comment. At a conference in New Orleans earlier in March, he acknowledged rumors that he would be leaving but declined to comment on them.
Craig Stewart, a partner at the Arnold & Porter law firm, will return to the Southern District to become chief counsel, Berman also announced. Stewart served there from 1987 to 1998 and worked in both the civil and criminal divisions. He previously worked as chief of the narcotics unit, deputy chief of the criminal division and chief appellate attorney.
Khuzami’s announced departure is the latest personnel change on the team that has led the Cohen investigation. Rachel Maimin, who had been the longest-tenured prosecutor on the group, recently left for private practice. Andrea Griswold, who had been seconded to the team from the securities-fraud unit, has returned to her prior position there. A new member, Rebekah Donaleski, joined from the terrorism and international narcotics unit.
Strauss was previously a partner at Fried Frank Harris & Jacobson, and worked as chief legal counsel at Alcoa Inc. She attended Barnard College and earned her law degree at Columbia Law school. She was also a board member on the Innocence Project, a charity that seeks to exonerate wrongfully-convicted defendants using DNA technology. Her first stint in the Southern District ran from 1976 to 1983.
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