President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team has told chief federal prosecutors around the country that they can stay on for some time past Inauguration Day, a Justice Department spokesman said Tuesday night.
“Currently serving U.S. Attorneys and U.S. Marshals were informed today that they are able to stay in place after January 20th while the process for identifying and confirming successors is further determined,” Justice spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said.
The issue of removing U.S. attorneys at the change of administration has been a contentious one in past years.
In 2007, President George W. Bush’s administration sought to defend his firing of eight U.S. attorneys by asserting that President Bill Clinton had fired all sitting U.S. attorneys in 1993 “in one fell swoop,” as a top aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales put it.
However, that was not entirely true. In both the Clinton and Bush administrations, the vast majority of U.S. attorneys were replaced in the first year, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2007. The Clinton team asked for resignation letters in March, but also allowed many prosecutors to stay until their successors were confirmed.
While the right of a new president to replace political appointees is generally undisputed, the Trump transition has faced criticism in recent weeks for being insensitive to some departing officials. In particular, ambassadors serving abroad have complained that they are being forced out of their posts while their children are still in school, notwithstanding requests for flexibility regarding timing.
Trump spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment for this article.
At least one chief prosecutor, U.S. Attorney in Manhattan Preet Bharara, has indicated plans to remain on a permanent basis into the Trump administration.
The Justice Department also indicated Tuesday that while Attorney General Loretta Lynch plans to leave her post on Friday, the agency’s No. 2 official will remain in place until a new attorney general is confirmed.
“Upon the request of the incoming Administration, Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates has agreed to serve as Acting Attorney General until a successor has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate, effective at noon Friday, January 20, 2017,” Hornbuckle said.