WASHINGTON — President Trump has quietly signed an executive order changing the order of succession in the Department of Justice, reversing an executive order by President Obama signed just last month.
The order appears to be the first that Trump has not signed in a public ceremony. It’s dated Thursday — the same day Attorney General Jeff Sessions was sworn in — but was not posted to the White House website until Friday morning. The White House did not explain the discrepancy.
The executive order spells out who will act as the nation’s highest law enforcement officer if the attorney general dies, resigns or becomes incapacitated. Such orders have been routine since the 2001 terrorist attacks, but Trump’s is notable becomes it comes two weeks after he fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to defend his executive order banning travelers from seven predominately Muslim countries.
That time, Trump went outside the official order of succession — as he has the right to do — to elevate Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, to acting attorney general.
Because the Senate has not confirmed any other top Justice Department officials, Boente will continue to be second in the line of succession under Trump’s order, followed by Zachary Fardon, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Tammy Dickinson, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri.
Seven days before he left office, President Obama changed the order of succession without explanation to remove Boente from the list. Obama’s order had listed U.S. attorneys in the District of Columbia, the Northern District of Illinois and the Central District of California.
The top positions remain unchanged: the deputy attorney general, the associate attorney general and — at the discretion of the attorney general — the solicitor general and other assistants. But because those positions are now officially vacant, the order currently skips to the Senate-confirmed U.S. attorneys.
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