The president had previously asked Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in New York, to stay on.
President Donald Trump’s administration asked remaining U.S. attorneys appointed by President Barack Obama to offer their resignations Friday, a seemingly abrupt move that surprised many—including the officeholders asked to leave.
At the top of that list was Preet Bharara, who oversees the powerful Manhattan office, which is known for handling high-profile Wall Street and terrorism cases. In November, Bharara met with the president-elect at Trump Tower and then held a press conference in the lobby to say that he would continue to serve the new administration.
People in the White House, however, said the dismissals had been discussed for weeks. “Been in the works for awhile. Decided to pull the trigger today,” said one senior administration official.
“We were always planning for it on about Day 50,” this person said.
The removal of U.S. attorneys has been politically fraught for years, with the midterm dismissal of eight chief federal prosecutors in December 2006 causing a firestorm that ultimately led to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
The timing and scope of such dismissals have often led to charges and counter-charges that they violated prior precedents. President Bill Clinton’s attorney general, Janet Reno, asked for resignations in March 1993, but allowed U.S. attorneys to stay in place until their replacements could be confirmed.
It appears the Trump administration plans to handle the dismissals differently. “The attorney general has now asked the remaining 46 presidentially appointed U.S. attorneys to tender their resignations in order to ensure a uniform transition,” Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Flores said in a statement on Friday afternoon. “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.”