Politics

The Press Only Cares About Replacing U.S. Attorneys When It’s Republicans Doing the Replacing

Jeff Sessions
Jeff Sessions / AP

New presidential administrations traditionally replace federal prosecutors at the outset of their terms, but President Trump's team is receiving considerable negative attention compared to prior White Houses, a Washington Free Beacon analysis shows.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions formally asked the 46 remaining Barack Obama-era U.S. attorneys who had not already resigned to leave their posts on Friday. Reuters noted it is "routine" for new administrations to choose their own federal prosecutors, as they are political appointees.

Politico used loaded language when referring to the Trump administration's request, using the headline, "Trump team ousts Obama-appointed U.S. attorneys." In a 2009 piece about the young Obama administration by the same website, the May 15, 2009 headline was, "Obama to replace U.S. attorneys."

Then-Attorney General Eric Holder was quoted as saying "elections matter" the day before during congressional testimony about the topic.

According to archived transcripts of White House press briefings, then-Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was not asked about replacing the federal prosecutors on May 15 of that year or in the following week.

Preet Bharara, who until last week was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, was initially asked by Trump to stay on. After Sessions' request, he refused to resign and was fired. His tweet announcing his firing has been retweeted nearly 64,000 times, and the story has received extensive media coverage.

The New York Times penned an article that Bharara's dismissal had a "Nixon-era parallel," writing about Democrat-appointed Robert Morgenthau's refusal to vacate his post when President Richard Nixon asked him to leave in 1969. CNN wrote he was axed after a "standoff" with Trump. The Today Show covered the saga on Monday morning with the chyron, "Trump Firings Raise Eyebrows,"

According to IQ Media, Bharara has been mentioned on the three cable news channels more than 340 times since Friday afternoon.

However, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D., N.Y.) said Monday that "there's nothing unusual" about the president removing his predecessor's U.S. attorneys.

Judge Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News legal analyst, said Monday that it is a "job that you hold at the pleasure of the president."

"When the president asks you to leave, you leave," he said. "You work for the president."

Napolitano added that ongoing investigations do not stop with the dismissals of federal prosecutors, but are continued by the legal professionals in those offices.

President Bill Clinton's administration sought the resignation of all 93 U.S. attorneys in the weeks after taking office in 1993. In a March 24, 1993 article about Attorney General Janet Reno's announcement, the New York Times noted, "All 93 United States Attorneys knew they would be asked to step down, since all are Republican holdovers."

Among the ones asked to resign was current Attorney General Sessions.

The article did delve into the District of Columbia's federal prosecutor's accusation that the order from Reno was possibly tied to his long-running probe into Democratic Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, "a crucial ally of President Clinton."

The Media Research Center's Brent Baker wrote that network evening newscasts "didn't care" about Clinton's decision at the time.

Stuart Gerson, the acting Attorney General at the beginning of Clinton's administration, wrote in 2007 that "It is customary for a President to replace U.S. Attorneys at the beginning of a term. Ronald Reagan replaced every sitting U.S. Attorney when he appointed his first Attorney General. President Clinton, acting through me as Acting Attorney General, did the same thing, even with few permanent candidates in mind."