Top US prosecutor refuses to quit, fired

WASHINGTON: US Attorney Preet Bharara of New York said on Saturday he had been fired after he defied a Justice Department request to resign as the Trump administration cleared out federal prosecutors who served under former president Barack Obama. “Today, I was fired from my position as US Attorney for the Southern District of New York,” Bharara said in a press release. He had originally disclosed his firing in a Twitter post. The Justice Department confirmed that Bharara was no longer serving in the position and declined further comment.
Bharara, whose jurisdiction as US attorney for the Southern District of New York included Manhattan, has handled a string of high-profile corruption and white-collar criminal cases. He was one of 46 Obama administration holdovers who were asked to resign by the Justice Department on Friday.
Like all of the nation’s 93 US attorneys, Bharara is a political appointee who is typically replaced when a new president takes office.
Bharara told reporters in November that President Donald Trump, shortly after being elected, had asked him to remain in the job.
Attorney-General Jeff Sessions’ decision to replace so many sitting attorneys at once has raised questions about whether the Trump administration’s ability to enforce the nation’s laws would be hindered. The Trump administration has not yet nominated anyone to fill those spots.
“President Trump’s abrupt and unexplained decision to summarily remove over 40 US attorneys has once again caused chaos in the federal government,” New York Attorney-General Eric Schneiderman said.
Career attorneys will carry on that work until new US attorneys are put in place, the Justice Department said.
Bharara, in his statement, said his seven-year tenure as US attorney “will forever be the greatest honour of my professional life.”
He said his deputy, Joon Kim, will serve as his temporary replacement.
Marc Mukasey, a white-collar defence lawyer who previously worked in the prosecutor’s office for eight years, has been mentioned as a possible replacement. His father, Michael Mukasey, served as attorney-general under Republican president George W Bush.
Bharara’s Manhattan office, which also has jurisdiction over the New York City borough of the Bronx, neighbouring Westchester County and some other counties in the state, handles some of the most critical business and criminal cases passing through the federal judicial system. He has been overseeing a probe into New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fundraising. After he was appointed by Obama in 2009, Bharara built a reputation as an aggressive prosecutor who was not afraid to take on complex cases.  — Reuters