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April 19, 2017

Is it really a big deal and a big problem that there are for now so many DOJ vacancies?

Because I have never worked in the Justice Department, I am really unsure whether much should be made of the facts highlighted in this recent Washington Post article about the slow pace of filling all the transition vacancies at DOJ.  The article is headlined "A month after dismissing federal prosecutors, Justice Department does not have any U.S. attorneys in place," and here are excerpts:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is making aggressive law enforcement a top priority, directing his federal prosecutors across the country to crack down on illegal immigrants and “use every tool” they have to go after violent criminals and drug traffickers.

But the attorney general does not have a single U.S. attorney in place to lead his tough-on-crime efforts across the country.  Last month, Sessions abruptly told the dozens of remaining Obama administration U.S. attorneys to submit their resignations immediately — and none of them, or the 47 who had already left, have been replaced.

“We really need to work hard at that,” Sessions said when asked Tuesday about the vacancies as he opened a meeting with federal law enforcement officials.  The 93 unfilled U.S. attorney positions are among the hundreds of critical Trump administration jobs that remain open.

Sessions is also without the heads of his top units, including the civil rights, criminal and national security divisions, as he tries to reshape the Justice Department.... Sessions said that until he has his replacements, career acting U.S. attorneys “respond pretty well to presidential leadership.”

But former Justice Department officials say that acting U.S. attorneys do not operate with the same authority when interacting with police chiefs and other law enforcement executives.  “It’s like trying to win a baseball game without your first-string players on the field,” said former assistant attorney general Ronald Weich, who ran the Justice Department’s legislative affairs division during Obama’s first term.

“There are human beings occupying each of those seats,” Weich, now dean of the University of Baltimore School of Law, said of the interim officials. “But that’s not the same as having appointed and confirmed officials who represent the priorities of the administration. And the administration is clearly way behind in achieving that goal.”

Filling the vacancies has also been complicated by Sessions not having his second-highest-ranking official in place.  Rod J. Rosenstein, nominated for deputy attorney general — the person who runs the Justice Department day-to-day — is still not on board, although he is expected to be confirmed by the Senate this month. Traditionally, the deputy attorney general helps to select the U.S. attorneys....  Rachel Brand has been nominated for the department’s third-highest position as associate attorney general. She has also not been confirmed.

This week, the attorney general flies to Texas and California to meet with law enforcement officials about his priorities.  But, until he gets his U.S. attorneys on board, Sessions will be hampered in moving forward with new policies, former Justice Department officials say.  “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.”

I am inclined to look at this article as largely "much ado about nothing," but perhaps folks with DOJ experience will help me better understand if and how DOJ vacancies may actually be a big deal and a big problem.

April 19, 2017 at 06:00 PM | Permalink

Comments

Sessions isnot the sharpest pencil in the box. He does ok when all he has to do is issue statements, but implementation is lacking. He will get better, but the feds have always used all their tools, which are mandatories and stacking or adding up the pieces to create a gross over stated sentence. This us just hot air thus far.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Apr 19, 2017 6:10:25 PM

True, but who cares ? The DOJ has enough BOGUS ghost STAFFERS that were purely created to deny accountability, refuse investigations and otherwise impede due process. Since 1998, a So-Called "Program Analyst" fake "signs" official counterfeit letters on DOJ letterheads, until today (the last bogus letter left a week ago] . Who else is fake @ DOJ ? without email, phone or paycheck ? Kangaroo Republic par excellence! It is truly amazing how some in academia and politics still pretend as if a RULE OF LAW were alive.

Posted by: Melanie L Lopez | Apr 20, 2017 5:38:10 AM

Just CONFIRMED by alt.doj vets : DOJ ghost "Program Analyst" Jacqueline Robertson a/k/a "Anal Jacy" is not a real DOJ staffer, but a mirage. Aren't they all ?

Posted by: Melanie L Lopez | Apr 20, 2017 5:43:59 AM

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