Incoming presidents routinely clean house in the Justice Department — especially when it comes to U.S. attorneys, the top prosecutors in the Justice Department who represent 93 districts throughout the country and its territories
President Joe Biden has continued that trend, with the Justice Department asking those who were appointed by President Donald Trump to resign as the administration transitions to its own nominees.
To President Biden’s credit, two top prosecutors overseeing politically sensitive inquiries are staying in, including Delaware U.S. attorney David Weiss, whose office is conducting a criminal tax investigation into Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter, a senior Justice Department official said.
Another prosecutor, John Durham, is expected to remain as a special counsel overseeing a wide-ranging inquiry into the origins of the FBI’s 2016 Russia investigation, while relinquishing his position as Connecticut’s U.S. attorney, the official said.
The resignation request applies to 56 U.S. attorneys, including Nebraska’s Joe Kelly, who has served for three years.
This practice goes back to President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and has continued each time a new party moves in.
Both Mr. Reagan and President Bill Clinton replaced 89 of the 93 U.S. attorneys in their first two years in office. President George W. Bush had 88 new U.S. attorneys in his first two years.
President Barack Obama played the game, too, with his attorney general, Eric Holder, saying at the time that “elections matter” in selecting U.S. attorneys.
President Trump’s administration fired 46 federal prosecutors who had served under President Obama. One holdover, Utah U.S. Attorney John Huber, was the lone appointee by both Mr. Obama and Mr. Trump.
In his resignation letter, Huber called it an “extraordinary honor” to represent the United States and Utah the past six years.
“From the time President Obama appointed me, through President Trump’s administration and up to my final day of service, I have aspired to be a statesman who prioritizes patriotism over partisanship,” he wrote.
With Huber as an example, attorneys can seek to be reappointed, but recent history has shown that rarely happens, which is unfortunate.
While U.S attorneys are appointed by the president to four-year terms and confirmed by the Senate, presidents have every right to have their own U.S. attorneys executing enforcement priorities that may differ from those of the previous administration.
But we wish that such dedicated servants as Kelly and Huber would not be victims of partisanship but instead be judged on their merits and job performance.