President Trump may have left the Apprentice behind, but he’s made good use of his signature phrase: “You’re fired!” This week, Trump said just that to forty-six Obama-appointed U.S. attorneys.
And, as with all Trump coverage, the media tried to make a metaphorical mountain out of a molehill.
With each transfer of power, it is common to see the new executive “clean house” and replace supporters of his predecessor with more like-minded people. Upon former President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993, Attorney General Janet Reno fired 93 U.S. attorneys–over twice the number of attorneys fired by Attorney General Sessions. This evidence does not undermine the necessary separation of powers, but it does acknowledge the rightful place of policy decisions in law enforcement.
The news came to a head on Saturday, when U.S. Attorney Preet Bhahara publicly refused to resign his post in the Southern District of New York. He posted to his personal Twitter account: “I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired. Being the US Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life.”
According to USA Today, this all started when a representative from the Trump administration called Mr. Bharara’s office on Thursday. By Friday, it was clear that the administration was calling for his resignation.
As one might expect, Senator Chuck Schumer over-reacted and gave the following statement:
By asking for the immediate resignation of every remaining U.S. Attorney before their replacements have been confirmed or even nominated, the President is interrupting ongoing cases and investigations and hindering the administration of justice.
Perhaps Sen. Schumer was alarmed at the abruptness of the changeover, but I doubt this is the case. Other Democratic legislators, including Rep. Elijah Cummings and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, issued statements questioning the president’s motives. Rep. Cummings wonders whether Bhahara’s jurisdiction (which happens to include Trump’s hometown) had any bearing on the matter, given Trump’s own run-ins with the law.
As Sen. Warren reminded President Trump, any replacements for these posts are subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. So this story is far from over.