More than a month after Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed dozens of the country’s top federal prosecutors to immediately resign, not one of the 93 US attorney positions has been filled.
“We really need to work hard at that,” Sessions said Tuesday after being asked about the vacancies, The Washington Post reported. He added that hiring US attorneys was a process that “does take some months and has traditionally.”
Yet Sessions has been traversing the country in recent weeks giving speeches about cracking down on crime, ushering in the “Trump era,” and strengthening border and immigration enforcement. He will most likely face difficulties implementing his agenda, however, without US attorneys in place, according to experts and former Obama administration officials.
US attorneys are the top federal prosecutors in local districts across the US. Though acting officials are in place until the vacancies are filled, they lack the power of a duly-appointed US attorney.
“An acting US attorney doesn’t speak with the same authority to a police chief or to a local prosecutor as a Senate-confirmed US attorney does,” former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller told The Post.
“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,” he added. “But if you’re a supporter of the president, you probably want them to move on those positions.”
The acting US attorneys are all well-qualified and will ensure open cases are prosecuted and investigations are followed up on, but they don’t necessarily share Trump or Sessions’ agenda for law enforcement, James Pfiffner, a professor of public policy at George Mason University, told Business Insider.
“If you’re Trump, you probably want people in those positions to make sure that your priorities are represented,” Pfiffner said.
In the short term, Sessions also lacks a second- and third-in-command: the deputy attorney general and associate attorney general. Nominations have been made for both positions but have not been confirmed by the Senate.
Sonam Sheth contributed to this report.