If the Trump administration wanted to appoint its own set of U.S. attorneys, no one would have had much of a reason to deny it the privilege. Most new administrations clean house in this area sooner or later, with more or less notice to the appointees being removed. But that’s the rub: It wasn’t “sooner” or “later,” it was right now, with no notice to the affected parties. The lack of preparation for this sudden purge provided another example of how inappropriate the president’s description of his administration as a “fine-tuned machine” actually is, and drew more negative attention than was necessary.
And so, the fate of Preet Bharara hung fire, as did the fates of the only two U.S. attorneys whose resignations have been rejected by the president, current Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente (who was still calling U.S. attorneys even as their collective demise was announced) and Deputy Attorney General nominee Ron Rosenstein.
The handling of this abrupt bureaucratic massacre reinforced the impression of a paranoid administration fearfully looking here and there for “deep state” spies more loyal to Barack Obama — or perhaps the law and Constitution and the oaths they have taken — than to Donald Trump. That impression was certainly supported by White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s comments on the very day the U.S. attorney firings occurred:
There’s no question, when you have eight years of one party in office, that there are people who stay in government, are affiliated with, you know, joined and continue to espouse the agenda of the previous administration, So I don’t think it should come as any surprise that there are people that burrowed into government during eight years of the last administration and, you know, may have believed in that agenda and want to continue to seek it.
He probably wasn’t talking about U.S. attorneys, but who can be blamed for identifying the attitude with the action? That association could have been easily avoided by a bit of separation in time and a lot of groundwork, but that’s not how this administration rolls.