Jeff Sessions, on March 10, ordered 46 US attorneys who were originally appointed by President Barack Obama to resign immediately. The remaining attorneys who are career officials would be taking on the caseload of the ones asked to resign. A number of Democratic politicians criticized the Trump administration of acting unethically and attempting to undermine investigations.
US attorneys, also known as chief federal prosecutors or US district attorneys, are attorneys that represent the federal government in US district courts and US court of appeals. They are the party that prosecutes those accused of committing federal crimes as well as perform investigations. These positions are appointed by the president and have a term of four years and are confirmed by the Senate. The president does have the power to replace US attorneys at any time.
Typically, US attorneys will serve in their position until their replacements have been confirmed. The firings of the US attorneys was considered to be a surprise development as their replacements have not been confirmed and some, such as Preet Bharara, were expected to continue in their positions. On the other hand, it is not unusual for a new administration to purge all of the US attorneys from a previous administration. President Bill Clinton did it in 1993 and President Barack Obama did it in 2009.
Some supporters of President Donald Trump, notably Sean Hannity, say that the firings were necessary to remove the Obama appointees because they did not support Trump’s agenda. On the other hand, Senator Elizabeth Warren characterized the move as an attempt to stop investigations into the Trump administration. She noted that Trump called Bharara which is a breach of protocol.
Bharara was the US attorney for the Southern District of New York and has a reputation of being aggressive in prosecuting political corruption. In November, he met with Steve Bannon and Donald Trump. In the meeting, he was asked to stay in position by Trump. It is not known why Trump changed his mind. There is speculation that he was investigating Fox News over an alleged failure to alert shareholders of a settlement of a court case and he would have been the prosecutor to investigate the alleged Trump Tower wiretaps. He was also involved in the investigation of Bill de Blasio’s fundraising scandal and top aides to Andrew Cuomo.
Update 3/17/2017: Bharara was reportedly starting an investigation into Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. The investigation would have centered on Price’s investments in biotech companies. It was alleged that he used insider trading.
References and Further Reading
- United States Attorney
- Trump Abruptly Orders 46 Obama-Era Prosecutors to Resign
- Elizabeth Warren slams Trump’s decision to fire prosecutor
- U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara Says He Was Fired After Refusing to Quit
- After firing Preet Bharara, President Trump beware
- Obama to replace U.S. Attorneys
- Replacing U.S. attorneys stretches back to Reagan
- NY attorney reportedly probed Price investments before his firing