Attorney Bharara Says He Was Fired After Not Resigning

NEW YORK (AP) -
Preet Bharara at Trump Tower in November 2016. (Reuters/Mike Segar)

An outspoken Manhattan federal prosecutor known for crusading against public corruption announced he was fired Saturday after he refused a request a day earlier to resign.

Preet Bharara, 48, made the announcement on his Twitter account after it became widely known hours earlier that he did not intend to step down in response to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ request that leftover appointees of former President Barack Obama quit.

“I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired,” Bharara said in the tweet. “Being the US Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life.”

Just over three months ago, then-President-elect Donald Trump asked Bharara to remain as U.S. attorney in Manhattan and Bharara told reporters after the Trump Tower meeting that he had agreed to do so.

Bharara was appointed by former President Barack Obama in 2009. In frequent public appearances, Bharara has decried public corruption after successfully prosecuting over a dozen state lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans alike.

Sessions’ decision to include Bharara’s name on the list of 46 resignations of holdovers from the Obama administration surprised Manhattan prosecutors.

While it is customary for a new president to replace virtually all of the 93 U.S. attorneys, it often occurs at a slower pace. Sessions lost his position as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama in a similar sweep by then-Attorney General Janet Reno in 1993.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat, said in a statement Friday that he was “troubled to learn” of the resignation demands, particularly of Bharara, since President Trump called him in November and assured him that he wanted Bharara to remain Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor.

After Bharara met President Trump on Nov. 30, he emerged from the meeting to say President Trump had asked him to remain in the job he has held since his appointment in the summer of 2009 and he had agreed.

The request from Sessions came as Bharara’s office is prosecuting former associates of Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in a bribery case. Also, prosecutors recently interviewed New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio as part of a probe into his fundraising. The mayor’s press secretary has said the mayor is cooperating and that he and his staff had acted appropriately.