The Trump administration moved to clean house at the Justice Department, demanding the resignations of 46 federal prosecutors appointed during the two terms of his predecessor Barack Obama.
Presidents often order political appointees in several agencies to resign when they take office, but the abrupt nature of the move caught some by surprise, especially given that so many were asked to leave at once.
High-profile Manhattan prosecutor Preet Bharara was among those asked to leave — even though he met with Trump before the Republican took office and said he was asked to stay on.
Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said Attorney General Jeff Sessions had asked “all remaining 46 presidentially appointed US Attorneys to tender their resignations in order to ensure a uniform transition.”
“Until the new US Attorneys are confirmed, the dedicated career prosecutors in our US Attorney’s Offices will continue the great work of the department in investigating, prosecuting, and deterring the most violent offenders.”
Later Friday, another Justice Department spokesman, Peter Carr, said Trump had asked two to stay on – current acting deputy attorney general Dana Boente and the man he picked to take over that position, Rod Rosenstein.
“The President called Dana Boente and Rod Rosenstein tonight to inform them that he has declined to accept their resignation, and they will remain in their current positions,” Carr said.
It was not immediately clear if other resignations would eventually be declined.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he was “troubled” to learn of the mass request for resignations, especially that of Bharara, and said it had not been done in an “orderly fashion”.
“By asking for the immediate resignation of every remaining US Attorney before their replacements have been confirmed or even nominated, the president is interrupting ongoing cases and investigations and hindering the administration of justice,” Schumer said in a statement on Facebook.