Recently, Donald Trump replaced acting Attorney General Sally Yates with Dana Boente "after she questioned the legality of his immigration ban".

When doing some research, I found out that:

  • Sally Yates was the Deputy Attorney General serving in the Obama administration under Loretta Lynch
  • Dana Boente was the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia who was also appointed by the Obama administration

This seems to be a trend that all acting Attorney Generals of the incoming Presidents are of the party of the outgoing president whenever there is a party change for the Presidency.

Outgoing President      Incoming President   Acting Attorney General
(R) Gerald Ford         (D) Jimmy Carter     (R) Dick Thornburgh
(R) George H. W. Bush   (D) Bill Clinton     (R) Stuart M. Gerson
(D) Bill Clinton        (R) George W. Bush   (D) Eric Holder
(R) George W. Bush      (D) Barack Obama     (R) Mark Filip
(D) Barack Obama        (R) Donald Trump     (D) Sally Yates / Dana J. Boente

This is the same with other officials such as Acting Secretaries, etc. when the cabinet nominees are pending confirmation by the Senate.

Also, Trump doesn't seem to like it:


So, why are there holdovers from the previous administration? Is this customary or by law?

1 Answer 1


Many positions in the federal government at that level require senate confirmation. Trump has nominated Jeff Sessions for the AG role.

The nomination and approval process takes time. Hence the holdover in the interim.

The reason the 'holdover' is of the same party affiliation as the outgoing president is because the outgoing president is the one that nominated them.

If the party doesn't change between presidents, there's not necessarily an as-strong-of desire to replace them.

  • Thanks for your answer, but why must officials in the holdover position be Democrats (the question in the title)?
    – Panda
    Jan 31, 2017 at 7:08
  • @Panda not sure I understand what you are asking. The holdover position matches the outgoing president. Which would be expected, as they were appointed by the outgoing president. (I updated the answer to reflect that).
    – user1530
    Jan 31, 2017 at 7:17
  • Yup, but in this case why doesn't Trump nominate a Republican for the holdover position? (He nominated another Democrat, Dana Boente, as acting AG)
    – Panda
    Jan 31, 2017 at 7:21
  • 4
    @Panda it's intrinsic in the meaning of "holdover." The only way Trump could have republican holdovers from Obama is if Obama had appointed a republican or had retained during the entire eight years of his two terms a republican who served under Bush. If Trump appoints a new republican person to as an acting official, that person is not a holdover (and also doesn't know how to do the job, so would be quite useless for a short-term appointment).
    – phoog
    Jan 31, 2017 at 7:24
  • @Panda with Boente, he had to find someone who could arguably sign FISA warrants, who needs to be Senate-confirmed. Are there any republicans he could have chosen?
    – phoog
    Jan 31, 2017 at 7:25

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