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Jeff Sessions asks 46 Obama-appointed U.S. attorneys to resign

Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)
Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions asked Friday for the resignations of dozens of politically appointed U.S. attorneys held over from the Obama administration, the Justice Department said. 

Sessions wanted "to ensure a uniform transition" to the Trump administration, spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement.

"Until the new U.S. attorneys are confirmed, the dedicated career prosecutors in our U.S. attorney’s offices will continue the great work of the department in investigating, prosecuting and deterring the most violent offenders," she said.

The order affects 46 U.S. attorneys; 47 others have already stepped aside. Ninety-three U.S. attorneys are the top federal prosecutors in 94 districts. (Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands share a federal prosecutor.)

It is not unusual for a new administration to seek the dismissal of political appointees, particularly those of a different party. In March 1993, then-Atty. Gen. Janet Reno sought the resignations of U.S. attorneys appointed by President George H.W. Bush, a move that sparked intense criticism from conservative commentators.

Attorneys general under Presidents Obama and George W. Bush generally tried to stagger departures over a few months.

When Obama was weighing how to handle the situation, former top prosecutors and the leader of an association that represents front-line federal prosecutors urged the administration to take a different approach than Reno. Firing U.S. attorneys en masse could harm continuity, they told the Washington Post in March 2009, and throw "law enforcement efforts into disarray."

Sessions' action comes the same day that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer addressed the specter of a "deep state" of bureaucrats trying to harm President Trump's agenda. Spicer told reporters that it should come as no surprise that "there are people that burrowed into government during eight years of the last administration and may have believed in that agenda and may continue to seek it."

In California’s Central District, which includes Los Angeles and several surrounding counties, the move by Sessions meant Eileen Decker was out of a job.

Decker was appointed U.S. attorney for the district in 2015. Before taking over the office, she served for several years as the deputy mayor for homeland security in Los Angeles, overseeing issues related to law enforcement and the city’s emergency response capabilities. Earlier in her career, she worked in the U.S. attorney’s office as a prosecutor.

During her short tenure as the region’s top federal law enforcement official, Decker gave the go-ahead to her public corruption unit to prosecute former Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca on charges he obstructed an FBI investigation into county jails. She also oversaw cases stemming from the San Bernardino terror attack.

A spokesman for Decker declined to comment.

2:28 p.m.: This story was updated with details on U.S. Atty. Eileen Decker.

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