The U.S. attorney shakeup: Questions linger | Arkansas Blog

Monday, March 13, 2017

The U.S. attorney shakeup: Questions linger

Posted By on Mon, Mar 13, 2017 at 9:24 AM

CHRIS THYER: He resigned effective last Friday as U.s. attorney. Will investigations in his office continue?
  • CHRIS THYER: He resigned effective last Friday as U.s. attorney. Will investigations in his office continue?
When all the remaining Obama-appointed U.S. attorneys were asked to resign last week, I and others noted that changeovers have been routine in the politically appointed offices.

But .... Some transitions have been more abrupt than others. And, in the case of the Trump change, it seems to have been hurried by commentary on Fox News. Still, the changes were to be expected sooner or later.

But the case of Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney in Manhattan, has had shock waves. He had expected to stay on. But then he was told he had to go. He refused and was fired. Complications: His office has been investigating Fox News. And, to add a little mustard to this hot dog, it was reported that a potential successor was Marc Mukasey, personal attorney to Roger Ailes, the deposed Fox News news chief and architect of the cable network's role as official Republican news organ.

Politics and pending investigations are not limited to Manhattan, of course.

Here in Arkansas, both districts of Arkansas have ongoing investigations with ties to Republican politicians. In the Eastern District, there's the bribery case against Mike Maggio, who has indicated the money he received for campaign finance in return for cutting a nursing home negligence verdict was arranged by a former Republican senator, Gilbert Baker, with national ties to Republican organizations. Baker has, so far, not been charged. In the Western District, two former Republican legislators, Micah Neal and Jon Woods, have been charged in a scheme involving kickbacks from state money and there are indications that isn't the end of that particular probe. It involves legislative-direction of state money across Arkansas, not just the northwest corner.

Will those probes proceed with vigor when new U.S. attorneys are installed?

Chris Thyer, the former Democratic legislation who was appointed by President Obama to be Eastern District U.S. attorney, submitted his resignation as requested, effective at midnight last Friday. Kenneth Elser, who's been serving on an interim basis in the western District since an Obama appointee, Conner Eldridge, resigned to make an unsuccessful race for U.S. Senate was not on the list asked to resign because he was not a presidential appointee. Elser was Eldridge's first assistant. He will continue to serve until the Trump administration names a successor.

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