On March 10, he abruptly asked all 46 Obama-appointed federal attorneys to resign and leave their offices immediately, without a successor – once again causing chaos in the U.S. government.
However, Preet Bharara — the high-profile U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and famous for taking on Wall Street corruption, terrorism, organized crime, cocaine barons, arms traffickers, antiques looters, corrupt police officers, cyber hackers, and political malfeasance — flouted the White House order to tender his resignation. On March 11, he was fired.
I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired. Being the US Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life.
— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) March 11, 2017
It is hardly unusual for U.S. presidents to replace federal attorneys appointed by the previous administration. In 1993, Bill Clinton fired all 93 attorneys in one day, but their removal was neither abrupt nor controversial.
However, Bharara’s defiant exit has raised eyebrows.
Famed for sending both the Democrat speaker and the Republican majority leader of New York State to prison, Bharara was assured that he could keep his job by Donald Trump in a meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Trump Tower, shortly after Trump’s election in November 2016. His refusal to resign is being seen as a way of expressing his anger and displeasure with Trump’s reneging on his promise.
But, the real reasons, for pulling the rug out from under him after telling him to stay on, are something else.
Bharara, who has a reputation as an equal-opportunity prosecutor in political corruption cases, investigating Republicans (Dean G. Skelos, former Republican majority leader of the State Senate) and Democrats (Sheldon Silver, former Democratic State Assembly speaker) alike, may have begun to worry Donald Trump.
Bharara not only won a lifetime sentence against the Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, and a 25-year sentence for international arms dealer Viktor Bout; he won a $1.8 billion insider-trading settlement against SAC Capital Advisors; and forced JPMorgan Chase to pay $1.7 billion to settle charges related to its role in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme.
John Conyers, a congressman from Michigan, believed Bharara — known for zealously pursuing white-collar criminals in wealthy Manhattan — could be looking into “a range of potential improper activity emanating from Trump Tower and the Trump campaign, as well as entities with financial ties to the president or the Trump organization.”
Eventually, the investigation of possible ties between members of the Trump campaign team and Russian officials, and the President’s claim that he was wiretapped in Trump Tower on orders of Obama, will all lead back to the Southern District of New York. No wonder Trump became increasingly wary of Bharara.
When he was fired, Bharara was investigating New York City Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio and his aides over allegations of campaign fundraising irregularities, and was set to try former members of New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration for bribery and bid-rigging schemes. Investigations were also underway about a major cyber heist from the Bank of Bangladesh involving funds, which moved through the New York Federal Reserve bank.
Preet Bharara was an excellent US attorney. Took on Wall St, public corruption & terrorists. He’ll be sorely missed.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) March 11, 2017
Bharara was also conducting a criminal investigation into Fox News in connection with their handling of sexual assault allegations against Roger E. Ailes (former chairman of Fox News), who has long had a mogul-to-mogul relationship with Donald Trump.
In fact, on March 9, Fox News’ Sean Hannity said Obama loyalists may be “saboteurs” who are leaking damaging information about the Trump administration, and encouraged the 45th President of the United States to clear the slate. Two days later, an inspired Trump obliged.
Removal of the most famous anti-corruption prosecutor in America marks the end of a chapter during which he has been out to prove that yes, corruption matters, and Americans actually do care about it, observed VICE. Eugene O’Donnell, a former Brooklyn cop and prosecutor, added:
“You have somebody [in Trump] who bragged about bribing public officials. For rank and file law enforcement people, what a terrible ethical message the guy is sending out, which is the government is there to be used and abused.
“Business can contribute and leverage its contributions for personal benefit. This is what the president has said. The president has said that. So I don’t find it shocking that—probably one of the few US attorneys in the country who’s systemically dismantling a state that’s been rife with corruption—that he would remove the guy.”