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Is the Department of Justice conducting a purge of Obama-appointed officials?

Spencer Platt/Getty

Late on Friday afternoon—when all of the really good Donald Trump news drops—the Department of Justice ordered 46 U.S. state attorneys, including anti-corruption crusader Preet Bharara of New York, to resign.

“As was the case in prior transitions, many of the United States attorneys nominated by the previous administration already have left the Department of Justice. The attorney general has now asked the remaining 46 presidentially appointed U.S. attorneys to tender their resignations in order to ensure a uniform transition,” Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement.

But, as with many things in the Trump administration, this deviates from precedent in key ways. It’s traditional for new administrations to ask for resignations at the start of the term—today was Trump’s 50th day in office. And the affected attorneys appear to have been given very little warning:

Adding to the weirdness are the many calls from outside the Trump administration to “purge” officials appointed by former President Obama. Sean Hannity, never one for subtlety, used the p-word in a segment last night that attempted to blame the “deep state” for the Trump administration’s many failures in its first 50 days. When Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about the “deep state” at Friday’s press briefing, he blasted Obama allies/varmints who he claimed had burrowed into government” to undermine Trump. Finally, Preet Bharara had met with Trump in November and had been persuaded to stay with the Justice Department—his resignation may not be accepted, but the fact that it is now being asked for is notable.

At this point, there seem to be two possibilities. The first—Occam’s razor in the Trump administration—is that sheer incompetence and a lack of familiarity with the levers of government are causing a lot of confusion. The second possibility is that Trump, the avid cable news watcher, is listening to Sean Hannity.