On Friday Attorney General Jeff Sessions has asked 46 U.S. attorneys appointed by President Obama to submit their resignations.
US attorneys are generally transitioned with a new incoming presidency, but as with my of the appointed positions in the Trump administration, Sessions does not have replacements lined up to replace the Obama era attorneys leaving these positions vacant.
DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement that Sessions asked the federal prosecutors to resign “in order to ensure a uniform transition.” And, “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,” Flores said. However, what wasn’t noted is that many of the previous resignations have not been filled either leaving a backlog of investigations and prosecutions.
It is currently unclear whether the DOJ has planned replacements or when these replacements will be placed. Generally, US attorney positions are transitioned often with the replacement working with the existing law team to ensure smooth transitions with existing cases and investigations. With the current holes and dismissal of the lawyers many are wondering what will become of current cases and why Sessions has decided on such a hasty push.
Edwards Lorris of the Constitutional Law Group in Washington D.C. called the move unprecedented. “There have often been quick removals of disliked US attorneys between administrations, but nothing on the scale of this or within some sort of transition plan… While replacement of the Obama appointments is understandable and even welcomed, it is unconscionable to remove these people without replacements. Hundreds of cases will be essentially be set aside as much of the teams under the attorneys will also move on.”
Of course, appointments have been delayed leaving gaps in the past, which has caused problems in local districts. Lorris described the outcome of missing US attorney positions in district, “Basically, you have the offices dropped charges on the more minor offenses they would normally prosecute and they can run into problems when defense lawyers push back on the length to bring accused to trial, particularly when they are in jail. I’ve seen cases where defendants walked free because there simply were not the leadership roles in place to push cases forward. Some of these cases are the law and order type of crimes that Trump talked about during his campaign. I can’t for the life of me think of why they would do this. And I’m a Trump supporter.”