One of the most high-profile prosecutors asked to resign, United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, refused to step down Friday, and was quickly fired. Bharara’s termination came as a surprise, since Donald Trump met personally with Bharara at Trump Tower last November and assured him he could remain at his post. Bharara says his office received a voicemail Thursday from the White House, but that he declined to speak with the president, citing Department of Justice rules. The unusual circumstances of Bharara’s dismissal prompted Democrats to suggest it was politically motivated. This is Maryland Democratic Congressmember Elijah Cummings, speaking on ABC’s “This Week”.
Rep. Elijah Cummings: “Just not very long ago, the president was saying that he was going to keep the U.S. attorney there in New York. And then, suddenly, he’s, I guess, changed his mind. I’m just curious as to why that is. And certainly, there’s a lot of questions coming up as to whether Mr. Trump is—President Trump is concerned about the jurisdiction of this U.S. attorney and whether that might affect his future.”
Bharara’s dismissal came as his office was probing Fox News after it allegedly failed to inform shareholders about numerous settlements in sexual harassment and assault cases. The dismissal came less than a week after government watchdog groups sent a letter to the Manhattan prosecutor’s office asking for an investigation into whether President Trump violated a clause of the Constitution barring federal employees from receiving benefits from foreign governments. In 2013, Preet Bharara was one of 18 U.S. officials barred from entering Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin was reportedly angered by Bharara’s prosecution of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. On Sunday, Bharara tweeted about his firing, writing, “By the way, now I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like.” That’s a reference to an anti-corruption commission set up by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2013, which the governor then disbanded the next year. The tweet fueled speculation that Bharara was fired because of his investigations into Trump’s businesses and the White House.