Media outrage over the Trump administration’s decision to sack 46 federal prosecutors landed with a thud when they were quickly reminded that former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had done the same thing, but some in the press have pivoted with a new spin.
It’s outrageous, NBC’s Chuck Todd said, because Attorney General Jeff Sessions (who was summarily fired by President Clinton as a U.S. Attorney in 1993) fired Preet Bharara. After all, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York was on the cover of Time magazine in 2012 and has been touted as a fearless anti-corruption crusader.
“I think it’s only getting more attention because of Preet Bharara, to be honest,” Todd said when his “Sunday Today” colleague, Willie Geist, asked him why the Trump administration’s move was any different from Clinton’s attorney general, Janet Reno, firing 93 U.S. Attorneys.
ABC’s David Wright noted that such prosecutor purges have happened before but, according to the Media Research Center, treated that fact as just a convenient excuse for the White House.
“One big difference is that the Trump Justice Department is already embroiled in controversy,” Wright said. “Investigating Russian meddling in the election. Including allegations, Trump campaign officials may have colluded. The attorney general himself is under scrutiny.”
CNN, in a Friday story headlined “Anger mounts over handling of US attorney firings,” said the problem with Trump’s move is that he didn’t give the prosecutors adequate warning.
“This could not have been handled any worse,” an anonymous source told CNN.
The article explained that “it is common for administrations to ask holdovers to step down, but what is less common is the abruptness of Friday’s announcement.”
Outrage over an administration canning U.S. Attorneys is not entirely new, at least not when it involves Republican administrations. President Bush’s Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, came under fire when he fired several federal prosecutors, citing their performance records. The incident, which came in 2006 amid midterm elections, led to Gonzales’ resignation.
“They serve at the pleasure of the president,” Gonzales told “Fox & Friends” Monday. “They know that.
“The president has a great deal of discretion in this arena,” Gonzales added. “I’m not sure where the story is here.”