THE ROUTINE REPLACEMENTS…. Late last week, the White House announced six presidential nominees for U.S. Attorney posts. Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters the Justice Department would be sensitive to the “continuity” of the offices, but added that “elections matter,” and the DoJ intends to have Obama’s choices in place nationwide quickly.
I assumed it was only a matter of time before a confused, high-profile conservative started comparing this to the Bush purge scandal. Sean Hannity, not surprisingly, did just that.
On the May 15 edition of Fox News’ Hannity, host Sean Hannity suggested that President Obama’s plans to replace current U.S. attorneys with his own appointees are analogous to President Bush’s controversial firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006. […]
During the segment, Hannity said: “[R]emember how outraged Democrats were when President Bush replaced a handful of his own U.S. attorneys? Now, liberals claim the prosecutors were unjustly removed for political reasons and argued that President Bush had no right to replace his own appointees. Well, get this — according to the AP, on the very same day that Karl Rove is reportedly meeting with a prosecutor to discuss President Bush’s decision, President Obama is one step closer to ousting a group of U.S. attorneys.”
Hannity later aired a clip of Attorney General Eric Holder stating during a May 14 congressional hearing, “Elections matter. It is our intention to have the U.S. attorneys that are selected by President Obama in place as quickly as we can.” Hannity then said: “All right. ‘Elections matter’? That’s your reason? Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that considered politically motivated?”
None of this makes a lick of sense, but the U.S. Attorney purge scandal is a few years old now, and it’s possible there might be some confusion about the process.
So, let’s set the record straight. The standard practice for new presidents is to replace his predecessor’s team of U.S. Attorneys with a new slate of prosecutors. U.S. Attorneys know this when they accept the nomination — their service will likely follow the president’s term in office.
What the Bush White House did, however, was identify specific U.S. Attorneys, in the middle of their term, who fell out of favor because they prosecuted Republicans or failed to prosecute Democrats. The purge of nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006 was without modern precedent, and is currently under investigation.
When Holder said “elections matter,” he was noting the obvious: Obama won, so he’s going to replace most of Bush’s U.S. Attorneys, just as Bush did with Clinton, Clinton did with Bush, Reagan did with Carter, etc. Obama’s move is just a simple, routine part of a transition between administrations. This isn’t controversial, and it bears no resemblance to the Bush-era controversy.
Hannity specifically said, “Correct me if I’m wrong.” Sean, consider yourself corrected.