Attorney General Sessions requests that U.S. Attorneys appointed by President Obama must tender resignations

  • Robert Capers, who heads the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn, tendered his resignation.

  • Preet Bharara, head of the Federal prosecutors' office in Manhattan, reported that he was fired one day after the Trump administration ordered the purge at the U.S. Department of Justice.

By LOUIS FLORES

Updated 12 March 2017 08:50 ⎪ U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Sessions III has requested that the 46 U.S. Attorneys appointed by former President Barack Obama and still serving in office must tender their resignations. The order to purge the holdover U.S. Attorneys was reportedly carried out by Acting U.S. Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente.

Shortly after Attorney General Sessions made the request, U.S. Attorney Robert Capers, the top Federal prosecutor for New York's eastern district, tendered his resignation. U.S. Attorney Capers' press office issued the following statement :

This afternoon, I was instructed to resign my position as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, effective March 10, 2017.

It has been my greatest honor to serve my country, New York City and the people of this district for almost 14 years, with the last 17 months serving as United States Attorney.

Bridget M. Rohde will continue the great work of this office as Acting United States Attorney.

Various news reports, including some published by The Times Union and Newsday, had questioned whether U.S. Attorney Capers would remain in office or have speculated about possible replacements for U.S. Attorney Capers.

Jefferson Session, left, was confirmed as U.S. Attorney General over mass objections, including objections made by over 1,200 law school professors, who invoked reports of Mr. Sessions' prejudice against civil rights laws that were enacted to, amongst other things, fight discrimination in voting rights. Amongst the U.S. Attorneys dismissed by Attorney General Sessions were Robert Capers, center, who had filed an application to join a lawsuit over allegations of violations in voting rights during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary in New York State, and Preet Bharara, right, who was reportedly being asked to investigation aspects of the Trump presidential campaign or the private business interests of President Donald Trump. After the departure of former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorneys Capers and Bharara were amongst the highest-ranking minorities within the U.S. Department of Justice. Sources : U.S. Department of Justice/Official Photographs/Public Domain

Jefferson Session, left, was confirmed as U.S. Attorney General over mass objections, including objections made by over 1,200 law school professors, who invoked reports of Mr. Sessions' prejudice against civil rights laws that were enacted to, amongst other things, fight discrimination in voting rights. Amongst the U.S. Attorneys dismissed by Attorney General Sessions were Robert Capers, center, who had filed an application to join a lawsuit over allegations of violations in voting rights during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary in New York State, and Preet Bharara, right, who was reportedly being asked to investigation aspects of the Trump presidential campaign or the private business interests of President Donald Trump. After the departure of former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorneys Capers and Bharara were amongst the highest-ranking minorities within the U.S. Department of Justice. Sources : U.S. Department of Justice/Official Photographs/Public Domain

U.S. Attorney Capers had managed his team of Federal prosecutors with a caseload and judicial wins that had been comparable to those of the team managed by U.S. Attorney Bharara, according to a report published by Progress Queens. The Federal prosecutors, who had reported to U.S. Attorney Capers, had negotiated settlements on investigations into violations of environmental law, had pressed charges against major Long Island political figures, and had been increasingly conducting investigations into corruption at large corporations. The major areas where advocates for Government reform had found common ground to express criticism of both U.S. Attorney's Offices in New York were in the realms of civil rights, open records, and reforming the criminal justice system.

On the day that the demand for resignations was announced, there was initial confusion over whether the purge would claim the career of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the top Federal prosecutor for New York's southern district. The call for U.S. Attorney Bharara to resign was in contravention to an earlier report that he would continue to serve in the Trump administration. Whilst President-elect Trump was still managing the transition into power, he had a meeting with U.S. Attorney Bharara. The outcome of that meeting was reported to be that U.S. Attorney Bharara would continue to serve in office. A spokesperson in the press office that serves U.S. Attorney Bharara declined to comment for this report, but a report published on Friday by The New York Times noted that U.S. Attorney Bharara has been asked to step down. An announcement confirming that U.S. Attorney Bharara would, indeed, be stepping down was not made until Saturday by U.S. Attorney Bharara, himself.

Trump orders purge at DOJ under increased scrutiny for Russian ties

Senior positions within the U.S. Department of Justice are staffed with appointments made by U.S. Presidents with political considerations. Although senior DOJ officers can be removed from office at the discretion of U.S. Presidents, such removals must be made in the public interest, as reported by Progress Queens.  See Parsons v. United States, 167 U.S. 324, 343 (1897).

The purge of the DOJ is coming at a time when the Trump administration is increasingly the target of press reports that key officials in his Presidential campaign had contacts with operatives or officials from the Federation of Russia. Although concerns of red-baiting have been raised about some such reports, other reports have concretely reported facts about connections. President Donald Trump alluded to the possibility of an existing Federal investigation of his campaign or business dealings with Russia when he tweeted that he believed that Trump Tower was the target of wiretaps in the time leading up the November general election. By removing top Federal prosecutors, who would have perhaps exerted political autonomy from the White House, President Trump can now appoint replacements, who share the political worldview of his administration. Such a move would also serve to end any DOJ investigation between the Trump administration and Russian operatives or officials.

The purging of U.S. Attorneys raises further questions about the Trump administration's commitment to a DOJ free from political machinations. In January, President Trump dismissed Acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates after she refused to defend a Muslim travel ban enacted by Executive Order. The Executive Order was viewed as not legally sound by senior DOJ officials. In the time since Ms. Yates' removal from office, the Courts have ruled that the Muslim travel ban was unconstitutional.