U.S. Attorney for North Georgia abruptly resigns due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’

U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak resigned his position Monday, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia.

In 2017, Pak was appointed the top federal prosecutor in the Northern District of Georgia by President Donald Trump, reportedly making history as the first-ever Korean American to hold the position of U.S. Attorney. He previously served six years in the Georgia House of Representatives, representing a portion of Gwinnett County, and is widely seen as a rising star in the state Republican Party.

“It has been the greatest honor of my professional career to have been able to serve my fellow citizens as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia,” Pak said late Monday in an emailed statement. “I have done my best to be thoughtful and consistent, and to provide justice for my fellow citizens in a fair, effective and efficient manner. I am grateful to President Trump and the United States Senate for the opportunity to serve, and to former Attorneys General (Jeff) Sessions and (William) Barr for their leadership of the department.”

The online news site Talking Points Memo, which first reported Pak’s resignation, said it obtained a memo dated Monday in which Pak said “unforeseen circumstances” were the cause of his departure. TPM reported Pak originally intended to stay with the office until Inauguration Day on Jan. 20. New presidential administrations typically appoint new U.S. attorneys, who must be approved by the Senate.

It’s unclear what those “unforeseen circumstances” might have been. Pak did not return a message seeking comment.

On Sunday, an audio recording became public of a conversation between Trump and his allies and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which Trump pressured the state’s top elections official to help him “find” enough votes to overturn the Nov. 3 contest, in which President-elect Joe Biden won by nearly 12,000 votes.

On the recording, Trump references a “never-Trumper U.S. attorney there.”

It’s unclear if that’s a reference to Pak. But Atlanta and Fulton County are within the Northern District of Georgia, and in the recording, Trump talks repeatedly of debunked accusations of electoral fraud in Georgia, including in Fulton.

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When he was appointed by Trump, Pak took over an office conducting a wide-ranging public corruption investigation of Atlanta City Hall and the administration of then-Mayor Kasim Reed that stretched back to at least the summer of 2015.

Pak devoted significant resources to the investigation, which to date has resulted in seven guilty pleas of contractors and city officials and four indictments, including the city’s former chief financial officer Jim Beard and political consultant Mitzi Bickers. Those trials are pending.

Pak also took on a high-ranking member of his own party. In May 2019, a federal grand jury indicted Jim Beck, then the state’s insurance commissioner, accusing him of stealing more than $2 million from a state-backed insurance association. Beck has pleaded not guilty and his trial is expected later this year.

In a somewhat rare move for a district’s top prosecutor, Pak planned to help try the Beck case himself.

Pak’s office also was involved in the sprawling investigation into the hacking of credit reporting giant Equifax.

Pak said the most fulfilling parts of the job involved working with law enforcement partners.

“My hope is that my tenure in the office will be remembered for our efforts to serve and to support those brave agents and officers,” he said. “I have witnessed first-hand the fortitude and grace of victims of crime and have taken to heart the awesome responsibility of speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

Monday’s announcement came less than a month after the top prosecutor for the U.S. District Court in Middle Georgia announced his resignation. U.S. Attorney Charles E. “Charlie” Peeler, who was also appointed in 2017 by Trump, resigned Dec. 11. Peter D. Leary currently serves as the Acting U.S. Attorney for Middle Georgia.

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