Joseph Harrington will continue leading the federal prosecutor’s office in Spokane with a slight change to his job title – from “acting” to “interim” U.S. attorney.
Harrington has been a prosecutor for the Eastern District of Washington since 1990. He began leading the office in March after President Donald Trump’s administration asked then-U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby to resign, along with 45 other top federal prosecutors.
Trump still has not appointed people to fill many of those vacancies, so lower-level prosecutors have been acting in their place. Federal law, though, puts a 300-day limit on that status.
To keep offices functioning past the deadline, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has used his own authority to appoint 17 interim U.S. attorneys, the Justice Department said Wednesday.
Seven of them, including Harrington, already were acting in that role. The other 10 will replace current acting prosecutors, who will get bounced back to their old jobs.
Sessions’ appointments can last up to 120 days. If Trump doesn’t submit permanent nominations to the Senate within that period, the federal courts will make temporary appointments until the White House and lawmakers agree on selections.
In addition to the Eastern District of Washington, which encompasses all of the state east of the Cascades, Sessions appointed interim U.S. attorneys for districts in New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Nevada, Louisiana, Missouri, California, Florida, Hawaii, Michigan, the Virgin Islands, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
In the Southern District of New York, Sessions installed Geoffrey Berman, a law partner of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who was a vocal Trump supporter during the 2016 campaign. That powerful office, which covers Manhattan, once was headed by Preet Bharara, who was fired last year after refusing Trump’s call to resign.
Harrington, 60, received his law degree from Gonzaga University Law School in 1986. Before joining the U.S. attorney’s office in Spokane, he worked for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C.
Holding various titles, Harrington helped prosecute members of the Phineas Priesthood white-supremacist group who carried out attacks on a Planned Parenthood location and The Spokesman-Review’s former Spokane Valley office.
He also helped prosecute Kevin Harpham, who placed a bomb on the route of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march in 2011, and former Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson Jr., who was convicted the same year of using excessive force on Otto Zehm and lying to investigators about the encounter.
“Joseph Harrington has 27 years of experience as a federal prosecutor,” Sessions said in a news release. “He has taken on white supremacists, domestic terrorists, health care fraudsters, and many other criminals. I want to thank him for his great work and I am pleased to appoint him as Interim U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.”
Harrington said in the same release that he’s humbled by the opportunity. Reached by phone Wednesday, he declined to comment further on his appointment.
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