Nothing Unusual About Trump Asking U.S. Attorneys to Resign

On Friday night, the Justice Department asked 46 U.S. Attorneys appointed by President Obama to step down. That should come as no surprise. Every President in recent memory has done the same thing.

In their first two years in office:
  • President Reagan replaced 89 of the 93 U.S. attorneys;
  • President Clinton replaced 89;
  • President Bush replaced 88; and,
  • Obama replaced 80.

“Elections matter,” Obama Attorney General Eric Holder told the House Judiciary Committee in May of 2009. “It is our intention to have the U.S. Attorneys that are selected by President Obama in place as quickly as they can.”

President Obama replaced Bush-era U.S. attorneys at a more leisurely pace. But, other Presidents have asked for U.S. Attorneys’ resignation en masse too. In March of 1993, Janet Reno, President Bill Clinton’s attorney general demanded the resignations of all 93 U.S. attorneys. It was immediately controversial. Among those let go were Jay B. Stephens, the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, who was in the midst of an investigation into a key Clinton ally, Rep. Dan Rostenkowski. Just a few days prior to Reno’s announcement, Stephen’s had announced he was 30 days away from a major announcement in the Rostenkowski case.

There is no suggestion of a nefarious motive in the Trump case. However U.S. Attorney for New York, Preet Bhaara’s unusual refusal to submit his resignation that forced the Trump administration to fire him generated headlines nonetheless. Bharra reportedly believed he would be asked to stay on. On a Twitter account Bharra conveniently created just a few days ago, he has been milking the dismissal.

Known for his prosecutions of public corruption, Bhaara tweeted on Sunday, “now I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like.” It was a reference to NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to disband a commission convened to investigate public corruption in Albany, a move Bhaara strongly criticized.

Some suggest, that Bhaara is positioning himself for a run for office. CNBC’s Eamon Javers reports, citing Justice Dept. sources, that in a phone call deputy attorney general Dana Boente told him that his resignation was being requested too, but never said the words ‘you’re fired.'” However, as Javers notes, “being fired by Trump—who is deeply unpopular among New York Democrats—could be a boost to a political career.”

Bhaara’s protests notwithstanding, presidents always bring in their own new team. Those spinning up conspiracy theories for Trump’s decision would be better served to look at a little history. Democrats crying foul should be reminded of what President Obama’s attorney general Eric Holder said, “elections matter.”

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