Turnover goes with territory

Turnover goes with territory

U.S. attorneys come and go with the political seasons.

U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Sessions has taken considerable heat recently for requesting the resignations of 46 holdover U.S. attorneys.

But the criticism is unwarranted because Sessions engaged in no impropriety. U.S. Attorneys come and go, usually with a change of presidential administration. Indeed, Sessions years ago was forced out of his position as a U.S. attorney in Alabama when the new Clinton administration summarily fired all but one of the country's 93 U.S. attorneys.

While Sessions' move was reported in some quarters with breathless intrigue, it's standard operating procedure.

About half of the nation's U.S. attorneys already had resigned, including Jim Lewis from the Central District of Illinois.

President Donald Trump had indicated to those who had not resigned that he would appreciate it if they stayed on the job for a while. So they did. But their allotted time, for whatever reason, expired, and now they're out.

Some didn't take it very well.

Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, was especially vexed to be asked to step down from the prominent position. Indeed, he refused, forcing Trump to fire him.

There's no reason for that kind of egotistical behavior. U.S. attorneys all know the score when they take these coveted political appointments. And they are political.

U.S. attorneys, for the most part, are representatives of the presidential administrations they serve.

That's not to suggest that their work is political. It's not. There's no room for politics when it comes to law enforcement.

But they generally come in with a new president and leave when that president leaves.

One glaring exception to that rule is former Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who served both the Bush and Obama administrations. Fitzgerald, now a Chicago lawyer and University of Illinois trustee, was a corruption buster. He was brought in from New York by former U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (no relation) for the expressed purpose of declaring war on government corruption in Illinois.

His office sent two governors (Ryan and Blagojevich) and many of their corrupt political associates to prison.

That made Fitzgerald, in a sense, above traditional politics, excusing him from the traditional rules that apply to the vast majority of his U.S. attorney colleagues.

So Sessions need make no apologies for sweeping out the remaining holdovers U.S. attorneys. He was going to do it sooner or later because that's his job.

At the same time, none of those asked to resign should bear in any way of the stigma of a forced resignation.

Sessions' decision wasn't about job performance. It was about clearing the decks.

Every president seems to approach this issue in a different way.

Clinton fired almost everyone as soon as he took office.

Presidents Bush and Obama preferred a slower approach, keeping most of the holdovers U.S. attorneys on board until their successors were ready to take office.

There's no right or wrong way to go about this distasteful business. And there's nothing inherently wrong with making a sweeping change. Elections have consequences, and this was one of them.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion


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