Mar 10

Friday Night Massacre

Griping about his administration being undermined by Obama holdovers and some fantasy about the existence of a “deep state“, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III has requested the immediate resignations of 46 US Attorneys, including including Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan.

The firings were a surprise — especially for Mr. Bharara, who has a reputation for prosecuting public corruption cases. In November, Mr. Bharara met with then President-elect Donald J. Trump at Trump Tower and told reporters afterward that Mr. Trump had asked him about staying on, which the prosecutor said he expected to do.

But on Friday, Mr. Bharara was among federal prosecutors who received a call from Dana Boente, the acting attorney general, instructing him to resign, according to a person familiar with the matter. A spokesman for Mr. Bharara declined to comment.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said in an email that all remaining holdover United States attorneys had been asked to resign, leaving their deputy United States attorneys, who are career officials, in place in an acting capacity. [..]

It was not clear how that affects Mr. Boente, who is the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Mr. Trump temporarily installed him as acting deputy attorney general after firing the holdover deputy from the Obama administration, Sally Yates, for refusing to defend Mr. Trump’s initial travel ban in court.

It was also not clear how the order affects Rod Rosenstein, the United States attorney for Maryland, whom Mr. Trump has nominated to be the deputy attorney general.

It remains possible that Mr. Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions may choose not to accept particular prosecutors’ resignations.

It is not unusual for a new president to replace United States attorneys appointed by a predecessor, especially when there has been a change in which party controls the White House.

Still, some presidents have done it gradually, while keeping some inherited prosecutors in place, as it had appeared Mr. Trump would do with Mr. Bharara. President Barack Obama, for example, kept Mr. Rosenstein, who had been appointed by President George W. Bush.

Still, in 1993, the Clinton administration fired all 93 United States attorneys on the same day. [..]

A person familiar with the calls that have been made said there was no advance warning of the move. It came less than 24 hours after Sean Hannity, the Fox News commentator who often speaks with Mr. Trump, called for a “purge” of Obama appointees at the Justice Department on his show.