The Southern District’s reputation for nonpartisanship — and history of autonomy from the Justice Department in Washington, giving it the nickname “Sovereign District” — may make it less vulnerable to attacks from the president and his allies. The president’s lead lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, led the office from 1983 to 1989 and later became New York’s mayor.
The Southern District’s role in Trump-related cases comes at a time of transition for the office, which is led by Geoffrey S. Berman, who was appointed in January 2018 by the Trump administration.
Mr. Berman notified Justice Department officials early last year of a possible appearance of a conflict of interest in the Cohen investigation, and officials concluded that he should be recused, for reasons that have not been disclosed.
In his stead, Mr. Berman’s handpicked deputy, Robert S. Khuzami, led the Cohen investigation. But on Friday, Mr. Berman announced that Mr. Khuzami will step down from his post next month to return home to Washington.
Mr. Berman named his senior counsel, Audrey Strauss, as Mr. Khuzami’s successor. Ms. Strauss, who had already been deeply involved in the Cohen investigation, will assume responsibility for any remaining aspects of the Cohen inquiry that were subject to Mr. Berman’s recusal.
Mr. Khuzami’s departure will not directly affect most of the other Trump-related investigations, which Mr. Berman has supervised. Mr. Berman’s name, for example, appeared on a February grand jury subpoena served on the president’s inaugural committee.
For the most part, the investigations surrounding the president and his associates have been assigned to career prosecutors in the office’s public corruption unit, which has a track record of convicting politicians on both sides of the aisle. Those prosecutors work on the eighth floor of the building, down the hall from Mr. Berman’s office.