Audrey Strauss, a former top in-house lawyer at Alcoa and senior litigation partner at Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson in New York, was named on Friday the second-in-command at the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, succeeding Robert Khuzami.
The shuffling puts Strauss in line to lead the office’s investigation into President Donald Trump’s inner circle, a probe that poses a broad threat to Trump and his administration. The Manhattan prosecution office led the case against Trump’s former personal lawyer and “fixer,” Michael Cohen, who is soon heading to prison for crimes tied to his close connections to Trump.
Khuzami, a former Kirkland & Ellis partner, federal prosecutor and chief of enforcement at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, had overseen the prosecution because the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Geoffrey Berman, had recused himself for undisclosed reasons.
On Friday, Berman, formerly a Greenberg Traurig partner, said he was also hiring New York-based Arnold & Porter partner Craig Stewart as his chief counsel.
“Audrey Strauss, who has been invaluable as senior counsel, will undoubtedly continue the important work of the deputy U.S. attorney,” Berman said in a statement. “Additionally, I am pleased that Craig Stewart will be joining my leadership team as chief counsel. I am certain that Audrey and Craig will support the office with excellence and insight.”
Strauss joined the Southern District of New York prosecution office in February 2018, serving as senior counsel to Berman. “Audrey’s career has been notable for her commitment to the legal profession and the rule of law,” Berman said in a statement last year.
Strauss had served as aluminum giant Alcoa’s chief legal officer since 2012. She earlier practiced at New York-headquartered Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, where she was a litigation partner from 1990 to 2012. Strauss was formerly a partner at Mudge Rose Guthrie & Alexander before joining Fried Frank. At Fried Frank, Strauss was a white-collar defender representing corporations and individuals.
“For more than two decades Audrey has excelled at serving our clients with regard to their most critical and highly sensitive legal matters,” Fried Frank chairwoman Valerie Ford Jacob said in a statement in 2012. “We will always be grateful for her contributions and look forward to continuing our relationship with her.”
Strauss has donated substantially to Democratic presidential candidates over the years. In 2012, she donated to the Democratic National Committee and the Obama re-election campaign, along with the failed House run of Mark Murphy, a New York Democrat. She’d previously contributed to Joe Biden’s 2006 presidential run, and to Hillary Clinton’s presidential run in 2007.
Strauss, a graduate of Columbia Law School, was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Manhattan federal prosecution office from 1976 to 1983, and she would later lead the criminal division’s appellate team and serve as the chief of the securities and commodities fraud unit.
Khuzami’s next steps are unclear. In the near term, his departure brings an end to his weekly commutes from Washington to New York.
“Rob Khuzami is an extraordinary and brilliant lawyer who has upheld the ideals of integrity and professionalism that characterize the work of this office,” Berman said. “There can be no higher praise.”
Berman added: “While his desire to continue to serve remains strong, he understandably has decided to return home to his family.”