NEW YORK (Reuters) - David Miller, a white collar defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor, has emerged as a candidate to succeed Preet Bharara as the next Manhattan U.S. attorney, according to people familiar with the matter.
Miller, a partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in New York, has in recent weeks spoken with officials in the U.S. Department of Justice and the White House as well as members of Congress about the job, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity about the private discussions.
The administration's interest in Miller for the prestigious post has not been previously reported. Edward McNally, a partner at Kasowitz Benson Torres, has been viewed as the leading candidate among at least four people said to have been under consideration, according to sources and media reports.
It is not clear who is now favored to get the position, which requires the President's nomination and is subject to confirmation by the Senate.
Spokespeople for Morgan Lewis, Kasowitz and the Department of Justice declined to comment. The White House did not respond to questions about Miller as a candidate.
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York is considered one of the most important posts in the U.S. justice system. It entails overseeing more than 200 prosecutors handling high-profile cases ranging from terrorism to wrongdoing on Wall Street, cyber attacks and corruption.
In addition to Wall Street cases, whoever is chosen will inherit the office's investigation into a scandal at Fox News Channel over payments to settle sexual harassment claims and the prosecution of a Turkish gold trader in a politically charged case that has angered Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Miller, 43, was an assistant U.S. attorney under Bharara from 2009 to 2014. During that time he was on a team of prosecutors involved in the office's crackdown on insider trading and was lead counsel in prosecutions of narcotics-related cases, as well as mail fraud and embezzlement schemes.
Bharara's former deputy Joon Kim is currently acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney. Bharara was fired in March after refusing to resign along with 45 other U.S. attorneys from the Obama administration. The dismissal was a surprise because Bharara was asked by Trump in November to stay on.
Bharara had built a strong reputation as Wall Street's top cop and for going after political corruption, regardless of party.
Both Miller's and McNally's law firms have ties to U.S. President Donald Trump. Sheri Dillon, a partner at Morgan Lewis, took part in Trump's January news conference on his plans to avoid conflicts of interest. Kasowitz has handled various cases for Trump for more than a decade and David Friedman, a former name partner at the firm, was confirmed in March as U.S. ambassador to Israel. Miller and McNally are both Republicans.
Before his stint under Bharara, Miller served as a trial attorney in the Justice Department's counterterrorism section and as assistant general counsel for the Central Intelligence Agency. While at the CIA, he assisted in prosecuting Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who was found guilty of lying and obstructing a probe into who blew the cover of a CIA officer in a case that fueled debate over the Iraq war.
Miller's former and current colleagues described him as a talented, "by-the-book" lawyer who - if chosen - could be expected to protect the office's culture of independence.
"David Miller would be a fine choice," said Carrie Cohen, a partner at Morrison Foerster whose time as a prosecutor in Manhattan overlapped with Miller's. "Appointing someone who previously worked in the office bodes well for bringing the types of cases it has historically brought, without fear or favor."
McNally, 61, has had a wide-ranging career in law and government. He was interim U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois in late 2005 and 2006 and, during the 1980s, he worked as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan under Rudolph Giuliani.
He also has served as a White House speechwriter under President George H.W. Bush, was general counsel for homeland security and terrorism and spent three years as senior counsel in the criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Other names that have cropped up in media reports as contenders for the post are Marc Mukasey, a defense lawyer whose father served as attorney general under Republican President George W. Bush and Edward O’Callaghan, a partner at Clifford Chance. O'Callaghan and Mukasey did not respond to emailed requests for comment.
Besides Giuliani, who went on to become New York City Mayor and more recently a Trump adviser, past U.S. Attorneys for Manhattan include James Comey, now FBI director, and Robert Morgenthau, who was the inspiration for the first district attorney on the television series, “Law & Order.”
According to his Linkedin profile, Miller has made a foray into television as a consultant for "Billions," a Showtime TV drama that was reportedly inspired in part by Bharara’s investigation into hedge fund manager Steven Cohen.
reporting by Nathan Layne and Karen Freifeld in New York, and Steve Holland in Washington; Editing by Tomasz Janowski