March 11 (UPI) — In a surprising, but not entirely unusual, move Friday, nearly four dozen federal prosecutors in the U.S. Department of Justice — holdovers from the administration of Barack Obama — were ordered to immediately resign by the new Republican administration.
In all, 46 U.S. attorneys were told Friday they must resign, wiping away the last remaining Justice Department personnel installed by the former president. Deputy U.S. attorneys, their supervisors, have been left in place for now in an acting capacity, a department spokeswoman said.
New U.S. presidential administrations typically restructure Justice Department staff to better reflect their agenda and political strategy, but experts say Trump’s abrupt move to fire them all at once is a bit unorthodox.
“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,” department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in an email Friday. “The Attorney General has now asked the remaining 46 [Obama]-appointed U.S. Attorneys to tender their resignations in order to ensure a uniform transition.”
There are 93 U.S. attorneys across the country. Before Friday’s dismissals, the other 47 prosecutors had already stepped aside.
Preet Bharara, a U.S. attorney in Manhattan who’s been involved with several high profile federal prosecutions during Obama’s tenure, said he was caught off guard when he received a call Friday from acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente.
In November, Bharara, 48, met with then-president-elect Trump and communicated his intention to stay on as a federal prosecutor.
“We had a good meeting. I said I would absolutely consider staying on. I agreed to stay on,” he said on Nov. 30, adding that Attorney General designate Jeff Sessions had also asked him to remain in the post.
“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,” Flores’ statement noted.
It remains to be seen how the firings affect Boente, who is also an Obama appointee for the Eastern District of Virginia. Boente, 63, was named temporary attorney general last month after the previous acting chief, Sally Yates, said the department would not defend Trump’s controversial immigration travel ban in court.
Both Trump and Sessions could decide to keep on some Obama-era prosecutors at their discretion, however.
Typically, new presidential administrations are gradual in their replacement of federal prosecutors. Some, though, mirrored Trump by acting quickly. President Bill Clinton fired all 93 U.S. attorneys at once when he took office in 1993.