Attorney General Jeff Sessions has asked for the resignations of all remaining U.S. attorneys appointed by former President Barack Obama.
A U.S. attorney is the chief federal prosecutor in a particular jurisdiction. It has become standard practice during recent transitions for appointees of the previous administration to leave the Department of Justice in the early months of a new presidency. President Ronald Reagan replaced 89 U.S. attorneys during the early months of his presidency. President Bill Clinton dismissed 93 when he assumed office.
“As was the case in prior transitions, many of the United States Attorneys nominated by the previous administration already have left the Department of Justice,” Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement. “The Attorney General has now asked the remaining 46 presidentially appointed U.S. Attorneys to tender their resignations in order to ensure a uniform transition.”
“Until the new U.S. Attorneys are confirmed, the dedicated career prosecutors in our U.S. Attorney’s Offices will continue the great work of the Department in investigating, prosecuting, and deterring the most violent offenders,” she added.
Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Virginia, was not among those asked to resign. He served as acting attorney general for several days after the Trump administration dismissed acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to defend the president’s first executive order on refugees and migrants in court. He currently is serving as acting deputy attorney general, pending the confirmation of Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein is U.S. attorney for the district of Maryland. He also was asked to remain in place.
The New York Times reports Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, was among those asked to step aside. Trump himself asked Bharara to remain in office during the transition, though it was never clear how long Bharara would continue to man his post. The Manhattan-based prosecutor is a fixture of national headlines, after numerous high profile investigations of Wall Street financiers and public officials in New York state, including individuals close to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee expressed concern about the dismissals in a statement released late Friday. The senator characterized the departures as abrupt, and asserted they reflect a disorderly transition at DOJ.
“In January, I met with Vice President Pence and White House Counsel Donald McGahn and asked specifically whether all U.S. attorneys would be fired at once,” she said. “Mr. McGahn told me that the transition would be done in an orderly fashion to preserve continuity. Clearly this is not the case. I’m very concerned about the effect of this sudden and unexpected decision on federal law enforcement.”
Several unnamed sources told CNN many prosecutors learned of their dismissal through media reports, and that senior officials had not communicated clearly with U.S. attorneys about staffing changes. The report does not make clear whether any of the sources are currently serving in the Justice Department, or if they were even familiar with the internal deliberations of the Trump administration with respect to this issue.
There are 94 U.S. Attorneys, all of whom are appointed by the president.
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