Yesterday afternoon Attorney General Jeff Sessions requested the resignation of the 46 remaining US Attorneys appointed by Obama. Overnight we’ve received some clarification. The acting deputy attorney general and US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Dana Boente, and the US Attorney for Maryland, Rod Rosenstein, who has been nominated to be deputy attorney general will be allowed to stay on. At this writing it appears that the high-profile and media-whorish US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, was also terminated.
A law enforcement source charged that “this could not have been handled any worse” because there was little warning. Many prosecutors found out through media reports that they had to resign today.
“There was not any particular clarity from the Justice Department as to what the future held for the US attorneys” until now, one source said.”
Many, left and right, are insinuating, or outright claiming, that the firings were brought on by Sean Hannity:
The abrupt order came after two weeks of increasing calls from Mr. Trump’s allies outside the government to oust appointees from President Barack Obama’s administration. Mr. Trump has been angered by a series of reports based on leaked information from a sprawling bureaucracy, as well as from his own West Wing.
Several officials said the firings had been planned before Friday.
But the calls from the acting deputy attorney general arose a day after Sean Hannity, the Fox News commentator who is a strong supporter of President Trump, said on his evening show that Mr. Trump needed to “purge” Obama holdovers from the federal government. Mr. Hannity portrayed them as “saboteurs” from the “deep state” who were leaking secrets to hurt Mr. Trump. It also came the same week that government watchdogs wrote to Mr. Bharara and urged him to investigate whether Mr. Trump had violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which bars federal officials from taking payments from foreign governments.
In Mr. Hannity’s monologue, he highlighted the fact that the Clinton administration had told all 93 United States attorneys to resign soon after he took office in 1993, and that “nobody blinked an eye,” but he said it became a scandal when the George W. Bush administration fired several top prosecutors midway through his second term.
Whatever. I shouldn’t be surprised, one thing I’ve discovered since November 9 is that there is no story, whatsoever, about Trump that the anti-Trump people are incapable of believing. When it comes to this stuff there is no bar of credibility the story has to clear beyond its mere existence.
The timing leaves one with the distinct feeling that there is something larger afoot than merely a routine flushing out of a previous administration’s appointees. Indeed, in a manner reminiscent of Douglas MacArthur’s firing by Harry Trumanm many of the US Attorneys discovered they were being fired by news reports The reaction of Democrats also indicates that the decision wasn’t intended to be carried out in the way it happened:
Ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee Dianne Feinstein said she was “surprised” and “concerned” by the news of the firings, saying the actions contradict what she was told by the Vice President and other administration officials.
“In January, I met with Vice President Pence and White House Counsel Donald McGahn and asked specifically whether all U.S. attorneys would be fired at once,” the California senator said in a statement. “Mr. McGahn told me that the transition would be done in an orderly fashion to preserve continuity. Clearly this is not the case.”
The law enforcement source said it is understood that it’s customary for a new administration to ask for resignations, but “you don’t tell them to clean out their desks the same day effective midnight tonight. There are people traveling on official business — are they supposed to turn into their cell phones today? Can they come into their office tomorrow to check email?”
Sometimes a cigar is only a cigar. In the past presidents have fired all or most US Attorneys. They can and they should. And the same people who are screaming scandal today were telling us to move along eight years ago:
But sometimes a cigar is metaphor.
Whatever happened Friday, it does not look, smell or taste like a long term plan for the dismissal of Obama holdovers being carried into action… unless that plan included, as components, the deliberate disrespect for and inconvenience of the incumbents and the pissing off of a lot of senators of both parties. It has all the hallmarks of a conscious decision that, for whatever reason, the keeping these people on board was dysfunctional to the administration and the organizational stasis caused by their dismissal was a feature and not a bug.