One month after firing dozens of U.S. attorneys hired by the previous administration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has yet to fill any of the vacated positions, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
More than 40 attorneys were let go from the Department of Justice last month in an attempt to eradicate any loyalists of former President Barack Obama.
When asked Tuesday about the high number of vacancies, Sessions conceded that it was on his to-do list.
“We really need to work hard at that,” the U.S. Attorney General said. Until the department can find replacements, Sessions indicated that he can only rely on career-acting U.S. attorneys who “respond pretty well to presidential leadership.” U.S. attorneys typically prosecute federal crimes in state offices located around the country.
At the current moment, Sessions does not even have a deputy or third-highest ranking official within his agency, associate attorney general. Rod Rosenstein, pegged to be the deputy attorney general, is expected to be confirmed by the Senate later this month, The Post reported. The deputy attorney general typically plays a crucial role in hiring U.S. attorneys to the department.
By this time in Obama’s first term, the Senate had already confirmed the deputy and associate attorneys general.
One former Justice Department official told the Post that until Sessions can get his department staffed up, the nation’s top law enforcement officer will be hampered in moving forward with new policies.
“An acting U.S. attorney doesn’t speak with the same authority to a police chief or to a local prosecutor as a Senate-confirmed U.S. attorney does,” said Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman in the Obama administration. “If you’re a Democrat, you’re probably happy to have these positions filled by career officials because they’re less likely to pursue some of the policies that Jeff Sessions supports. But if you’re a supporter of the president, you probably want them to move on those positions.”
Beyond the vacancies at the U.S. attorney-level, Sessions has also yet to name the heads of the Justice Department’s civil rights unit, along with the criminal and national security divisions, The Post also reported.