Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked Friday for the resignations of dozens of politically appointed U.S. attorneys held over from the Obama administration, the Justice Department said.
Sessions wanted “to ensure a uniform transition” to the Trump administration, spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement.
“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 said.
The order affects 46 U.S. attorneys; 47 others have already stepped aside. Ninety-three U.S. attorneys are the top federal prosecutors in 94 districts. (Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands share a federal prosecutor.)
It is not unusual for a new administration to seek the dismissal of political appointees, particularly those of a different party. In March 1993, then-Attorney General Janet Reno sought the resignations of U.S. attorneys appointed by President George H.W. Bush, a move that sparked intense criticism from conservative commentators.
Attorneys general under Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush generally tried to stagger departures over a few months.
When Obama was weighing how to handle the situation, former top prosecutors and the leader of an association that represents front-line federal prosecutors urged the administration to take a different approach than Reno. Firing U.S. attorneys en masse could harm continuity, they told The Washington Post in March 2009, and throw “law enforcement efforts into disarray.”
Sessions’ action comes the same day White House press secretary Sean Spicer addressed the specter of a “deep state” of bureaucrats trying to harm President Donald Trump’s agenda. Spicer told reporters that it should come as no surprise that “there are people that burrowed into government during eight years of the last administration and may have believed in that agenda and may continue to seek it.”
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