By Glynn Wilson –
Rather than resigning as U.S. Attorney General for lying to Congress, Alabama Jeff Sessions announced the proactive decision this week to forcibly remove U.S. attorneys around the country from office who were appointed by President Barack Obama so the Trump administration could bring in more conservative Federalist Society lawyers to oversee local and regional prosecutions in keeping with the priorities of Trump and Sessions.
Sessions asked 46 federal prosecutors to submit their resignations, a move that mirrors what George W. Bush did early in his first term as president to bring more conservative, loyal Republicans into the Justice Department.
President Obama did not clean house when he was elected, opting instead to run a merit system and review all federal employees, keeping many Republicans, as long as they were “qualified.”
Sessions even demanded the resignation of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bhararam, even though President-elect Donald Trump has personally asked him to stay on back in November.
Bharara was unsure where he stood on Friday because he did not know if the person who contacted him from the Justice Department about resigning was aware that Trump had asked him to remain in office, according to sources inside the department cited by Reuters, which is reporting that Trump called acting U.S. deputy attorney general Dana Boente on Friday and told him to decline his resignation.
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in a statement that he was “troubled” to learn of the requests for resignations, “particularly that of Preet Bharara.”
As Schumer’s chief counsel, Bharara helped lead the investigation of the dismissals of U.S. attorneys in 2006 during the Bush administration.
Bharara, appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama in 2009, has pursued an aggressive approach against corruption in state and city politics and is known for his prosecution of white-collar criminal cases, overseeing a federal investigation into New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fundraising activities. He has also successfully prosecuted dozens of cases against Wall Street figures involved in insider trading, obtaining a $1.8 billion settlement and plea deal in 2013 with hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors LP, and securing settlements with companies such as General Motors and JPMorgan Chase.
He secured convictions and guilty pleas from former employees of Ponzi scheme operator Bernard Madoff, and prosecuted Suleiman Abu Ghaith, a son-in-law of the late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
“Bharara’s priorities have often matched those set by Obama’s Justice Department, which potentially puts him at odds with the Trump administration,” Reuters reports.
Also, Robert Capers, the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, issued a statement Friday saying he had been asked to resign and that Bridget Rohde, the chief assistant U.S. attorney in that office, would take over in an acting capacity.
“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 Justice Department said in a statement issued Friday.
In later stories, Reuters said Bharara is expected to remain in his post and that Trump had also called Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein, his pick to take over as deputy attorney general, to remain in his post.
But the Washington Post is now reporting that Bharara has been fired for refusing to submit his resignation letter.
Sources are saying now that Obama appointee Kenyen R. Brown in the Alabama Southern District U.S. Attorneys office in Mobile will be replaced by Steve Butler, who has served more than 20 years with the Justice Department, the last 14 in the Southern District of Alabama. He served as first assistant U.S. attorney and chief of the Civil Division since 2013, chief of the Appellate Division and deputy chief of the Criminal Division, and two years in the Civil Right Division in Washington.
“Steve Butler is a well seasoned leader and federal prosecutor,” Brown said Monday. “He will do an excellent job as the interim U.S. Attorney.”
© 2017, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.