All of the top presidentially appointed federal prosecutors will get pink slips in the mail as early as today, a fairly usual part of any change of administrations. Excuse me, I meant to write that it’s fairly usual when a Democrat comes into the White House. Asking appointees to clear out their desks is a scandal when a Republican takes over the presidency, at least in the media.
Two lucky members of the club will get a pass, however — because Joe Biden doesn’t want to look corrupt:
The Biden administration as early as Tuesday is expected to ask remaining U.S. attorneys appointed by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate to begin stepping down — though the Trump-appointed federal prosecutor investigating Hunter Biden, President Biden’s son, as well as the prosecutor reviewing the FBI’s 2016 investigation of Trump’s campaign, will be allowed to continue their work, a Justice Department official said.
While President Biden always was expected to install his own U.S. attorneys at federal prosecutor’s offices across the country, the move is an indication that he intends to purge those whose politics might be more aligned with Trump’s sooner rather than later.
Meh. The move is an indication that Biden understands prosecutorial discretion and the spoils of winning. It would only be unusual if Biden didn’t ask for these resignations. The Trump angle is only interesting as a framing device, but if Biden had succeeded a Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz administration, he’d be doing exactly the same thing.
The hall pass given to John Durham and David Weiss is far more interesting, politically if not legally. The New York Times frames this as a return to “impartiality,” but that’s too gracious by half:
The Justice Department will allow John H. Durham to remain in the role of special counsel appointed to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia inquiry, even after he relinquishes his role as the top federal prosecutor in Connecticut, according to a senior Justice Department official.
Mr. Durham is expected to step down as the U.S. attorney in Connecticut as early as Tuesday, when the Biden administration will begin to ask dozens of Trump-era U.S. attorneys who have not already quit to submit their resignations, the official said Monday.
All of the remaining U.S. attorneys appointed by President Donald J. Trump and confirmed by the Senate will be asked to tender their resignations except for David C. Weiss, the U.S. attorney in Delaware who is overseeing the tax fraud investigation into President Biden’s son Hunter Biden. Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson called Mr. Weiss on Monday evening and asked him to remain in office, according to the official.
It is common for new presidents to replace U.S. attorneys en masse, and the request for resignations has long been expected. But Mr. Durham’s and Mr. Weiss’s investigations had created delicate situations for the Biden administration, which is seeking to restore the Justice Department’s image of impartiality.
Ahem. The reason Durham got appointed to the special-counsel position is because of a lack of impartiality during the Obama-Biden administration. Durham’s probe involves the partisanship and politicization of the FBI and DoJ during Operation Crossfire Hurricane and the FBI’s potential spying on a major-party presidential candidate. Don’t forget that Durham’s case potentially includes Joe Biden directly, with his White House meeting in January 2017 suggesting the use of the Logan Act to go after Michael Flynn. If Biden removed Durham at this point, especially with the public record of Crossfire Hurricane already at its present stage, it wouldn’t suggest “partiality” — it would smell of a cover-up.
That’s even more obviously true with Weiss, whose investigation involves the Biden family directly. The DoJ’s Hunter Biden probe got partially exposed by the New York Post before the election and confirmed shortly afterward by William Barr. Unlike with Durham, Barr chose not to make Weiss a special counsel, leaving the decision whether to cut him loose to Biden, but that would smack not just of a cover-up but nepotism as well.
The Biden team has clearly conceded (at least to themselves) that they have to live with these probes, at least for now. Perhaps they’re betting that Hunter’s clean and Durham doesn’t have much of a case. That may be a safe bet, considering that both probes have been ongoing for more than a year and neither have produced much in the way of indictments, let alone convictions. (Kevin Clinesmith got probation for falsifying a FISA court submission in a plea deal stemming from Durham’s probe, but so far that’s it.) Canceling either or both might create more political damage than whatever they produce. At least, that’s what the White House hopes.