US Attorneys 'Learned of Firing Through Media'

'This could not have been handled any worse'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 11, 2017 10:48 AM CST
US Attorneys 'Learned of Firing Through Media'
United States District Attorney Preet Bharara speaks to the press in New York last year.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

It is not unusual for new presidents to dismiss US attorneys from previous administrations the way the Trump administration did Friday—but the abruptness of the move is being heavily criticized. "This could not have been handled any worse," a law enforcement source tells CNN. The Justice Department's announcement that Attorney General Jeff Sessions' was asking the remaining 46 federal prosecutors from the previous administration to resign came before many of the attorneys had been notified, insiders say, meaning that many of them found out about the development through media reports. A roundup of coverage:

  • The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee slammed the administration for the "abrupt firings," the Hill reports. "Under previous administrations, orderly transitions allowed US attorneys to leave gradually as their replacements were chosen," Sen Dianne Feinstein said in a statement. "This was done to protect the independence of our prosecutors and avoid disrupting ongoing federal cases."

  • One especially surprising firing was that of Preet Bharara, the US attorney in Manhattan, the New York Times reports. Bharara met with Trump in November and told reporters afterward that he had been asked about staying on.
  • The Washington Post reports that Trump declined to accept the resignations of two US attorneys: Dana Boente, currently the acting deputy attorney general, and Rod Rosenstein, who has been nominated to be deputy AG.
  • The move had been discussed for weeks, White House insiders tell Politico. "Been in the works for awhile. Decided to pull the trigger today," a senior official says, adding that they were always "planning for it on about Day 50."
  • Montana US Attorney Mike Cotter tells the AP that he got a phone call from Boente Friday telling him "the president has directed this." "I think it's very unprofessional and I'm very disappointed," he says. "What happened today on Friday, March 10, that was so important that all Obama appointees who are US attorneys need to be gone?" He says his resignation letter will be "a one-liner."
  • No successors have been confirmed for the departing attorneys, meaning prosecutors in their offices will take over for now, the Post reports.
  • Sen. Chuck Schumer tells Politico that he finds the development troubling. Presidents appoint their own US attorneys, but 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 says.
  • By the standards of the post-Bill Clinton era, the Trump move is far from "scandalous," writes Andrew McCarthy at the National Review, who notes that many appointees had already moved on because they understood that a new administration would want its own appointees—and that the Clinton administration fired 93 out of 94 US attorneys in its early months.
  • The New York Daily News reports that news Bharara is departing has sparked a lot of speculation in New York that he might seek political office the way some of his predecessors did—including Rudy Giuliani.
(More US attorney stories.)

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