Sessions asks 46 Obama-era US attorneys to resign
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has asked dozens of U.S. attorneys appointed by former President Obama to submit their resignations, the Department of Justice announced Friday.
U.S. attorneys are normally replaced at the beginning of new administrations. Of the 93 U.S. attorneys, 46 remain from the past administration, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Sessions asked for the federal prosecutors to resign “in order to ensure a uniform transition,” DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement.
“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,” the spokeswoman said.
The DOJ said career prosecutors in Sessions’ office would continue investigations and prosecutions until the new U.S. attorneys are confirmed.
The call for resignations applies to all Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorneys, including Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
That comes as a surprise, as Bharara reportedly met with Trump after the election and agreed to remain in his position during the Trump administration. Sessions also asked him to stay, the prosecutor told The New York Times.
Once the resignations are submitted, it would be Trump’s decision on whether to accept all of them.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement that he was “troubled to learn of reports of requests for resignations from the remaining U.S. Attorneys, particularly that of Preet Bharara.”
The Senate Democratic leader said Trump “initiated a call to me in November and assured me he wanted Mr. Bharara to continue to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District.”
“While it’s true that presidents from both parties made their own choices for U.S. Attorney positions across the country, they have always done so in an orderly fashion that doesn’t put ongoing investigations at risk. They ask for letters of resignation but the attorneys are allowed to stay on the job until their successor is confirmed,” he said.
“By asking for the immediate resignation of every remaining U.S. Attorney before their replacements have been confirmed or even nominated, the President is interrupting ongoing cases and investigations and hindering the administration of justice.”
Democracy 21, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the Campaign Legal Center sent a letter this week asking Bharara to investigate whether Trump has received payments or other benefits from foreign governments through his business interests, according to The Washington Post.
Under the “emoluments clause” of the Constitution, top officials are prohibited from receiving payments or favors from foreign governments.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued a statement criticizing the “abrupt firing” of federal prosecutors.
“Under previous administrations, orderly transitions allowed U.S. attorneys to leave gradually as their replacements were chosen,” Feinstein said. “This was done to protect the independence of our prosecutors and avoid disrupting ongoing federal cases.”
“At a time when Attorney General Sessions has recused himself from major investigations into the Trump campaign, the independence of federal prosecutors could not be more important,” she added, reiterating the call for a special prosecutor.
– Jordan Fabian contributed.
Updated at 7:28 p.m.