While President Biden always was expected to install his own U.S. attorneys at federal prosecutor’s offices across the country, the move is an indication that he intends to purge those whose politics might be more aligned with Trump’s sooner rather than later.
While many U.S. attorneys appointed by Trump and confirmed by the Senate stepped down before the transition, others remained in their posts, and the administration had previously asked them to stay on while Biden decided what to do.
The Justice Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss personnel moves that had not yet been announced, said Biden’s request would be made of those U.S. attorneys both appointed by Trump and confirmed by the Senate.
That means it would not immediately affect those installed on an acting basis, such as Michael R. Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, whose office is handling the prosecution of those involved in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Biden, though, will eventually install his own appointees at that office and others, and it is possible he could take steps in the interim to put different acting leaders in place. It was unclear when that might happen.
It also was unclear, after Biden asks the U.S. attorneys to begin submitting resignations, how much time they would have before being made to leave their posts. The Justice Department official said only that the Biden administration would “begin the transition process” as soon as Tuesday and declined to provide a more specific timeline.
In March 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked all 46 remaining Obama administration U.S. attorneys across the country to submit their resignations immediately. A similar step was taken at the start of the Clinton administration, but the George W. Bush administration eased U.S. attorneys out gradually while officials sought replacements, as did Barack Obama’s Justice Department.
Among those who would be affected is Bobby Christine, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, whom Trump controversially installed to also lead the Northern District last month.
At the time, Trump was waging a pressure campaign against Georgia officials to support his unfounded claims of election fraud there. Christine recently resigned from his role in the Northern District, though he remained as the U.S. attorney in the Southern District.
Also affected would be U.S. Attorney John Huber for the District of Utah, who years ago was tapped to look into concerns raised by Trump and his allies in Congress that the FBI had not fully pursued cases of possible corruption at the Clinton Foundation and during Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state. That probe ended without finding anything of consequence, people familiar with the matter have said.
The Biden administration’s move was first reported by CNN.
The Justice Department official said that acting U.S. attorney general Monty Wilkinson had asked David C. Weiss, the U.S. attorney for the District of Delaware, to stay on in his current role. Weiss’s office is investigating Hunter Biden for possible tax crimes, and removing him would be likely to spark significant political backlash.
The official said John Durham, the U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut, would also be able to continue his review of the FBI’s investigation into whether Trump’s 2016 campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 election. That is because former attorney general William P. Barr appointed Durham as a special counsel, and he will remain in that role even after stepping down as U.S. attorney, the official said.
Although Biden’s nominee to be attorney general, federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, has yet to be confirmed, the Justice Department already has taken several steps to undo Trump-era directives and return the department to its pre-2016 posture. Last week, for example, Wilkinson rescinded a controversial policy change that Barr made to give prosecutors more latitude to take public steps in voter fraud investigations before election results are certified.