Why Trump’s purge of U.S. attorneys bypassed Atlanta’s top prosecutor

Donald Trump. AP photo.

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Donald Trump. AP photo.

President Donald Trump's demand that 46 U.S. attorneys to resign and immediately vacate their offices bypassed two of Georgia's three lead federal prosecutors.

The Friday order, which took Washington by surprise, included only the U.S. attorneys appointed by President Barack Obama.

That meant John Horn, who heads the Atlanta-based Northern District office, and Pete Peterman, who leads the Macon-based Middle District, were unscathed. Both were the top deputies in their offices when their previous bosses left, and an Obama-tapped replacement was never confirmed by the Senate.

“Acting (U.S. attorneys) aren’t presidentially appointed and are career attorneys,” said Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores.

On the outs is Ed Tarver of the Southern District, which includes Savannah and Augusta. Appointed by Obama in 2009 and confirmed by a unanimous vote in the U.S. Senate, the former state legislator briefly considered a challenge last year to Sen. Johnny Isakson.

Most presidents choose their own appointees for the coveted U.S. attorney positions, and most typically ask those appointed by their predecessors to leave. But Trump’s request was more abrupt than other presidents, some of whom let U.S. attorneys stagger their departures to finish major cases.

Horn became the acting U.S. Attorney in Atlanta after Sally Yates, his predecessor, was tapped by Obama in 2014 to be the No. 2 at the Justice Department. And she became a hero to liberals – and a target of conservatives – after she was fired by Trump for refusing to enforce his immigration ban.

She's now joined by another high-profile federal prosecutor in the ranks of the Trump outcasts: Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, refused to follow Trump's order to resign and on Saturday he announced on Twitter that he had been fired.