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Eric Garner Chokehold Officer May Benefit Most From Trump DOJ, Sources Say

By Murray Weiss | November 11, 2016 2:43pm | Updated on November 14, 2016 7:32am
 A Manhattan judge ruled that the CCRB would have to release the disciplinary record for Daniel Pantaleo.
A Manhattan judge ruled that the CCRB would have to release the disciplinary record for Daniel Pantaleo.
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New York Daily News

MANHATTAN — Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who is under federal investigation in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, may be the New Yorker who stands the most to gain from a President Trump administration.

That’s because there is a strong chance that Trump’s Department of Justice — with the “law and order” Rudolph Giuliani perhaps at the helm — would likely sign off on the decision by Brooklyn prosecutors and the FBI here that Pantaleo did not violate Garner’s civil rights during that fatal 2014 encounter.

Obama’s Justice Department has refused to go along with that decision, and last month ordered a Washington-based team of investigators to review the case with an eye toward seeking an indictment. 

A law enforcement official flatly predicted that if Pantaleo's case lingers into a Trump administration: “It dies.”

"Pantaleo should be the happiest guy on Staten Island that Trump is the president,” another high-level official told “On the Inside.”

But current and former law enforcement officials with experience working during changes in presidential administration also say the public should not expect a sea-change in how current investigations are handled, or look for them to suddenly be brought to an end.

“Rarely would a new Attorney General, and new local U.S. Attorneys put the brakes on a case,” a veteran of the Justice Department said, pointing out that career, civil service prosecutors and agents “work the cases, not the head of any office or agency.”

“Even if the leadership changes at the top, it is not likely they take the investigations and throw them in the trash,” another top federal official said. "No one expects veteran career prosecutors and agents working sensitive cases to ever be told to stop their work."

What may occur, however, are changes in leadership not only at the Department of Justice, but of the heads of local U.S. Attorney offices around the country, which likely will bring shifts in what their offices focus on.

For example, after 9/11, the FBI transferred resources toward combating terrorism from more traditional crime-fighting efforts such as probing organized crime.

“The focus could shift, but the agents and prosecutors who do the work, the wiretapping that is in place, the investigations that are ongoing, all of it, remains pretty much intact," another top official said. 

New York has two U.S. Attorneys offices — Preet Bharara in Manhattan and Robert Capers in Brooklyn — and a U.S. Marshal in each jurisdiction, all of whom serve at the pleasure of the president.

Normally a victory by a rival political party means a change at the top.

But this election — like New York itself — is unique.

President-elect Trump is a New Yorker and a long-time acquaintance of Sen. Charles Schumer, as is Giuliani, himself a former head of the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office.

And the popular Bharara was not only recommended to his present post by Schumer, but he previously served as Schumer's chief of staff.

With Schumer slated to become the Senate Minority Leader, Trump could send an olive branch to him by keeping Bharara in place.

Capers, who succeeded Loretta Lynch when Obama elevated her to Attorney General, may not have enough political protection to make it through a Trump administration, observers say.

Regardless, none of these dramas will likely play out before next spring, officials say, because of how long it will take before Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, whoever it is, could be approved by Congress.