Hans A. von Spakovsky,
It should come as no surprise that an Obama political appointee (with the cooperation of the media) would try to create a phony scandal out of a routine event. With every new administration, the incoming president asks all U.S. attorneys appointed by the prior administration to resign. After all, they are political appointees, just like cabinet officials and the attorney general, other cabinet members and literally thousands of other jobs within the executive branch.
In 2009, President Barack Obama asked for the resignation of George W. Bush-appointed U.S. Attorneys. When he replaced virtually all of them, it was treated as nothing out of the ordinary. That’s because it wasn’t.
In March 1993 President Bill Clinton had Attorney General Janet Reno fire 93 of the 94 U.S. Attorneys appointed by the prior administration. (Only Michael Chertoff was retained, apparently at the request of Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J.) Again, there was no outrage over these firings.
Yet today, Preet Bharara, Obama’s U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, is being portrayed by some as a political martyr because he was “fired” after he refused the Trump administration’s request to resign along with the remaining 45 Obama appointees in the U.S. Attorney slots. The fuss being made about this is just as phony as the outrage ginned up in 2006 by political opponents of President George W. Bush. They were shocked, SHOCKED!, that Bush had dared replace eight U.S. Attorneys—all of whom had been appointed by… Bush himself.
All the sensational coverage—past and present—ignores one simple and controlling fact: All political appointees, including U.S. Attorneys, serve at the pleasure of the president.
All the sensational coverage—past and present—ignores one simple and controlling fact: All political appointees, including U.S. Attorneys, serve at the pleasure of the president. That is why only 46 Obama appointees were asked to resign last week; all the others had already left.
That is why only 46 Obama appointees were asked to resign last week; all the others had already left.
They knew, as does everyone else in Washington politics and the media – that they were expected to resign as soon as the new president was inaugurated and move on to the no doubt very lucrative jobs they are now being offered in big law firms all over the country.
The moment a U.S. Attorney leaves, the First Assistant in that office—a career prosecutor—takes over until a new U.S. Attorney is confirmed by the Senate. All of that office’s investigations and prosecutions continue uninterrupted. There is no “partisan” interference going on.
All of us can agree that law enforcement should be nonpartisan and carried out in an objective manner that meets the best interests of the administration of justice. But new presidents and new attorneys general are entitled to put in U.S. Attorneys who will carry out their policies and their priorities when it comes to enforcing the myriad federal laws covering everything from terrorism and organized crime to immigration and election fraud.
On many of these issues, the Trump administration’s policy varies widely from the previous administration. For example, President Trump wants to enforce our immigration laws rather than ignore them. A cadre of U.S. Attorneys appointed to accommodate the old policy would make it virtually impossible to implement the new.
We know exactly what to expect from these holdovers because we’ve seen what happened when the Trump administration allowed Obama political appointees to remain at the Justice Department.
The prime example is Sally Yates, the former Deputy Attorney General, who enhanced her reputation (and her job prospects) with the progressive left when she announced that she would not defend President Trump’s executive order on immigration. Her political allies portrayed her as a martyr, even though she let her political views interfere with her sworn duty to defend an executive order that her own department had already concluded was lawfully issued.
Preet Bharara, the now former U.S. Attorney for Southern New York, seems to be trying to stage the same type of media spectacle. Like all of the other remaining Obama political appointees, he was asked to resign. Unlike all the others, he refused to do so.
The administration then did the most natural thing in the world: it dismissed him. Bharara broke the news himself, tweeting out that he had been fired almost as soon as he got off the telephone call with Main Justice. This little bit of political theatre is apparently calculated to raise his profile, his “cred” and perhaps his market value among the “Resist” wing of the Left.
I am told by a knowledgeable media source that Bharara is extremely ambitious. New York papers have speculated that he may be ramping up for a run for governor or mayor. Another former Justice Department source confirmed that Bharara “has grand political aspirations,” adding that he is also “extremely partisan.”
The only real outrage here is that a politically ambitious prosecutor and his friends in the media are taking a totally routine event – the request that a political appointee resign the post he was given under a prior administration’s patronage – and trying to turn it into a scandal.
Hans A. von Spakovsky is a Senior Legal Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and former Justice Department official. Along with John Fund, he is the coauthor of “Who’s Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk” and “Obama’s Enforcer: Eric Holder’s Justice Department.”