Attorney General Jeff Sessions has asked dozens of attorneys appointed by former President Barack Obama to resign to allow a “uniform” transition to the administration of his successor, Donald Trump
The Justice Department made the announcement on Friday, saying that the move was in accord with tradition. Of the total 93 attorneys, 46 remain from the Obama administration.
“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,” said DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores.
While replacing US attorneys at the beginning of new administrations comes as no surprise, the decision to immediately ask all of the federal prosecutors to resign has raised some questions.
Surprisingly, the resignation call also includes Preet Bharara, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Bharara and Trump reportedly met after the November 8 election and the New York attorney agreed to remain in his position throughout the Trump administration. The prosecutor told The New York Times that Sessions also asked him to stay.
The resignation letters will be reviewed by Trump, who then determines whether they should all be accepted.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, a fierce Trump critic, said he was “troubled” by the decision, saying it would harm the ongoing investigations.
“While it’s true that presidents from both parties made their own choices for US 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 US Attorney before their replacements have been confirmed or even nominated, the President is interrupting ongoing cases and investigations and hindering the administration of justice,” he added.
Schumer also said Trump “initiated a call to me in November and assured me he wanted Mr. Bharara to continue.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, also criticized the suddenness of the move.
“Under previous administrations, orderly transitions allowed US attorneys to leave gradually as their replacements were chosen,” she said. “This was done to protect the independence of our prosecutors and avoid disrupting ongoing federal cases.”