Why did the Trump administration fire US Attorney Preet Bharara?

When US Attorney Preet Bharara refused to step down, the Trump administration fired him, he says, adding that, as president-elect, Donald Trump had asked to remain in the position. 

Mark Lennihan/AP/File
US District Attorney Preet Bharara announces charges in December. On Friday, he was included on a list of prosecutors asked to submit resignation letters as Attorney General Jeff Sessions clears space for prosecutors that can be appointed by President Donald Trump.

The Manhattan US Attorney, who refused to leave his position as part of a sweeping resignation request was fired by the President Trump’s administration Saturday.

He says serving in the position was the “greatest honor” of his professional career.

Preet Bharara wrote on Twitter Saturday: “I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired.”

He later issued a statement regarding his departure.

“Serving my country as U.S. Attorney here for the past seven years will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life, no matter what else I do or how long I live,” Mr. Bharara said. “One hallmark of justice is absolute independence, and that was my touchstone every day that I served.”

The Justice Department contacted the 46 US attorneys appointed by former President Barack Obama who remained in office Friday to request their resignation. The sudden move, which the department says is intended to “ensure a uniform transition,” surprised many, although it is not uncommon for new presidents to replace holdouts from a previous administration with new appointees.

That process normally takes a more gradual course, and attorneys have typically been given a grace period of several weeks as they appoint replacements. In this case, deputy US attorneys were asked to take over the role as the administration searches for replacements for half of the country’s top federal prosecutors.

But the sudden move could stem from pressure to oust Obama-era holdouts. Some believe that people who served under the Obama administration could be leaking information about Trump’s office to the press, and have raised concerns about continued extreme political divisions that are could stall the Trump agenda.

Bharara had expected to remain in his position under Mr. Trump. He met with the then-president elect on Nov. 30, and later reported that Trump had asked him to remain on the job.

During his seven years as US attorney for the southern New York district, Bharara earned a reputation for being tough on corruption, bringing charges against suspected inside traders and more than a dozen state lawmakers.

Michigan Rep. John Conyers (D) of the House Judiciary Committee speculated that Bharara’s office “could be reviewing 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.”

Bharara’s office is currently investigating the settlements made in the sexual-harassment allegations against Fox News by its employees, which were brought by Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson, two big-name previous hosts.

Annemarie McAvoy, a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, echoed Mr.. Conyers concerns. She noted that any subpoenas seeking information on Trump’s campaigns ties to Russian officials would likely make its way through Bharara’s office

She speculated that the Trump administration wanted “to take out as many people as they can in the prior administration given the leaks and problems that they’re having.”

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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