Photo: Carolyn Kaster / AP

President Trump has personally interviewed at least two candidates to fill the open U.S. attorney vacancies in New York, reports Politico: Geoffrey Berman for the U.S. attorney post in the Southern District of New York, and Ed McNally for the Eastern District of New York.

The interviews are unusual for a president, and have raised concerns among critics of potential conflicts of interest, as U.S. attorneys are supposed to operate independently from the president. Matthew Miller, former Department of Justice spokesman under the Obama administration said Thursday that Obama never interviewed a U.S. attorney candidate during his two terms.

The White House's defense: "These are individuals that the president nominates and the Senate confirms under Article II of the Constitution," a WH official told Politico. "We realize Senate Democrats would like to reduce this President's constitutional powers. But he and other presidents before him and after may talk to individuals nominated to positions within the executive branch." Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York who was fired in March, tweeted Wednesday: "It is neither normal nor advisable for Trump to personally interview candidates for U.S. Attorney positions, especially the one in Manhattan." And this isn't the first time Trump has done this. Politico points to Senate Judiciary documents that reveal Trump met with Jessie Liu, the candidate for U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia, earlier this year. That meeting raised questions from Democrats in particular, though she was later confirmed. "For him to be interviewing candidates for that prosecutor who may in turn consider whether to bring indictments involving him and his administration seems to smack of political interference," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told Politico.

Go deeper

Updated 34 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: The swing states where the pandemic is raging — Pence no longer expected to attend Barrett confirmation vote after COVID exposure.
  2. Health: 13 states set single-day case records last week
  3. Business: Where stimulus is needed most.
  4. Education: The dangerous instability of school re-openings.
  5. States: Nearly two dozen Minnesota COVID cases traced to 3 Trump campaign events
  6. World: Restrictions grow across Europe.
  7. Media: Fox News president and several hosts advised to quarantine.

Republicans and Dems react to Coney Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation

President Trump stands with Judge Amy Coney Barrett after she took the constitutional oath to serve as a Supreme Court justice during a White House ceremony Monday night .Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

President Trump said Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court and her subsequent taking of the constitutional oath Monday was a "momentous day," as she she vowed to serve "without any fear or favour."

  • But as Republicans applauded the third conservative justice in four years, many Democrats including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) warned of consequences to the rush to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ahead of the Nov. 3 election, with progressives leading calls to expand the court.
Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Science

CRISPR pioneer: "Science is on the ballot" in 2020

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

In her three decades in science, Jennifer Doudna said she has seen a gradual erosion of trust in the profession, but the recent Nobel Prize winner told "Axios on HBO" that the institution itself has been under assault from the current administration.

  • "I think science is on the ballot," Doudna said in the interview.

Why it matters: That has manifested itself in everything from how the federal government approaches climate change to the pandemic.