Attorney General Jeff Sessions has asked the remaining 46 U.S. attorneys to resign, the Justice Department announced Friday, describing the move as part of an effort to ensure a “uniform transition.”
The department said some U.S. attorneys, as in prior transitions, already had left the department. Now, “the Attorney General has now asked the remaining 46 presidentially appointed U.S. Attorneys to tender their resignations,” a spokeswoman said.
“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,” the statement added.
It is customary, though not automatic, for the country’s 93 U.S. attorneys to leave their positions once a new president is in office. Incoming administrations over the past several decades typically have replaced most U.S. attorneys during the first year or two.
The Obama administration allowed political appointees of President George W. Bush to serve until their replacement had been nominated and confirmed. One U.S. attorney appointed by Bush, Rod Rosenstein of Maryland, remained on the job for the entire Obama administration and is the current nominee for deputy attorney general.
Sessions’ actions, though, are being closely scrutinized by Democrats after a rocky start to the AG’s time at the DOJ.
Weeks after his tight confirmation vote on Feb. 8, it emerged that Sessions had met twice with the Russian ambassador last year — despite testifying during his confirmation hearing he had no communications with the Russians.
Sessions later clarified his testimony, while recusing himself from any investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 campaign.
The move Friday also comes amid Republican concerns that officials who served under the Obama administration may be working against the Trump administration. Those suspicions, though, largely have focused on intelligence agencies and elsewhere.
U.S. attorneys are responsible for prosecuting federal crimes in the territories they oversee. They report to Justice Department leadership in Washington, and their priorities are expected to be in line with those of the attorney general. The federal prosecutors are nominated by the president, generally upon the recommendation of a home-state senator.