Less than 24 hours after the Trump administration abruptly ordered the resignations of 46 U.S. attorneys at the Justice Department, Preet Bharara, a prominent New York federal prosecutor known for battling against public corruption and disgraced politicians, announced he had been fired for refusing to turn in his resignation. Although President Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions told Bharara in November that the incoming administration would keep him on after the transition of power, Bharara was fired shortly after Sessions declared he would recuse himself from an investigation into Russian influence on Trump surrogates and recent revelations that former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn had secretly been working as a foreign agent representing the interests of the Turkish government.
In May 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Bharara to become the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. In addition to investigating large financial institutions and securing multi-million dollar settlements with Deutsche Bank and CitiMortgage for faulty lending practices and other fraudulent conduct, Bharara also became famous for prosecuting several corrupt New York politicians, including State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
In late November, Trump invited Bharara to meet at Trump Tower in Manhattan. After speaking with Trump in person and with Sessions over the phone, Bharara told reporters that the incoming administration had asked him to stay.
But on Friday, Acting U.S. Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente suddenly asked for the immediate resignations of 46 Obama-appointed U.S. attorneys, including Bharara. One day before the terminations, Fox News commentator Sean Hannity had called upon the Trump administration to “purge these saboteurs.”
After refusing to turn in his resignation, Bharara took to Twitter on Saturday and wrote, “I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired. Being the U.S. Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life.”
On January 30, Trump fired U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates for issuing a Justice Department memorandum refusing to defend the president’s initial Muslim ban in court. Despite the fact that Yates and Bharara were fired for simply doing their jobs, U.S. Attorney General Sessions was caught lying to the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath about his involvement with Russian officials during the presidential campaign and still refuses to resign.
Caught lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his communications with the Russian Ambassador, former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn was forced to resign on February 13, after serving in office for less than a month. Last week, Flynn filed papers with the Justice Department, acknowledging that he worked as a foreign agent last year representing the interests of the Turkish government.
One week before terminating Bharara, Trump accused former President Obama of wiretapping his phones at Trump Tower in the months preceding the election. Without offering any proof, the president immediately called for a federal investigation into his unverified accusations in a blatant attempt to divert attention away from any potential investigations into Sessions.
“In January, I met with Vice President Pence and White House Counsel Donald McGahn and asked specifically whether all U.S. attorneys would be fired at once,” ranking Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Dianne Feinstein wrote in a recent statement. “Mr. McGahn told me that the transition would be done in an orderly fashion to preserve continuity. Clearly this is not the case. I’m very concerned about the effect of this sudden and unexpected decision on federal law enforcement.”
Feinstein added, “At a time when Attorney General Sessions has recused himself from major investigations into the Trump campaign, the independence of federal prosecutors could not be more important. That’s why many of us have called for the appointment of a special prosecutor.”