WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday named 17 interim U.S. attorneys to temporarily take the place of some of the dozens of Obama administration holdovers he ordered to resign last year.
Sessions was facing a deadline. The vacancies had been temporarily filled by prosecutors who are permitted to serve in that position for just 300 days. The White House still hasn’t nominated anyone to serve permanently as top prosecutor in each of the 17 districts, including the high-profile Southern District of New York, which encompasses Manhattan, site of Trump Tower and other properties owned by President Donald Trump and his family.
The appointments, while temporary, could put the interim appointees in strong positions to be tapped for the permanent slots.
Sessions in March sought resignation letters from 46 U.S. attorneys who were Obama appointees, including Preet Bharara, the high-profile Manhattan federal prosecutor who was fired after refusing to step down with the others. Attention has focused on who will replace Bharara, given Trump’s interest in the district. Sessions named Geoffrey S. Berman, who emerged early on as the Trump administration’s candidate. He worked as a federal prosecutor in the Southern District in the 1990s and is now a law partner of former New York Mayor and Trump ally Rudy Giuliani.
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It’s fairly customary for the 93 U.S. attorneys to leave their posts once a new president is in office, but the abrupt nature of the dismissals in March angered some. The Senate has now confirmed 46 U.S. attorneys and 12 more have been nominated.
The vacancies have left Sessions without politically appointed leaders in key regions to carry out his crime-fighting agenda. The temporary appointees can serve for 120 days before Trump must nominate permanent U.S attorneys and seek to have them confirmed by the Senate.
The appointees include Richard Donoghue in the Eastern District of New York, a counsel to CA Technologies who was a longtime prosecutor in that district. There’s also Craig Carpenito in New Jersey, who represented Gov. Chris Christie during the George Washington Bridge lane closing scandal.
Another appointee is Joseph Harrington for Eastern Washington.
Some appointees, including Stephen Dambruch in Rhode Island and Gregory Brooker in Minnesota, have already been serving as acting U.S. attorneys.
“It is critical to have U.S. Attorneys in place during this time of rising violent crime, a staggering increase in homicides, and an unprecedented drug crisis,” Sessions said in a statement, adding that his picks have “excellent prosecution skills and the temperament necessary to succeed in this critical role.”