Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, has been fired by the Trump administration after refusing an order to resign. Bharara was one of the 46 Obama-appointed federal prosecutors who were told to submit their resignations on Friday, March 10th by the Justice Department, and he confirmed that he both refused to resign, and was then fired, in a tweet on Saturday, March 11th.
Bharara was appointed by Obama in 2009, and has earned the reputation of a “crusader” prosecutor. The 48-year-old Bharara has made a national and international mark for himself with many high-profile cases and investigations including foreign countries, insider trading and those involving US politicians.
The crusading prosecutor – dubbed the “sheriff of Wall Street” – was the only Indian American U.S. attorney in the nation. Acting deputy Attorney General Dana Boente had called US Attorney Preet Bharara and told him President Trump was firing him, hours after he announced he would not resign under the guidance of a directive issued a day earlier by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“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 no matter what else I do or how long I live,” Bharara tweeted mid-morning March 11. “One hallmark of justice is absolute independence, and that was my touch-stone every day that I served,” he added.
“By the way, now I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like,” Bharara tweeted a day later, referring to an
independent body set up by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to investigate political corruption. The commission was abruptly disbanded a year later.
Bharara’s firing came only two days after reports emerged that his office had been asked by watchdog groups to investigate whether President Donald Trump’s business ties with foreign governments violated the Constitution.
The president had uncharacteristically placed a call to Bharara’s office on March 9th, according to a report in The New York Times.
Ethics protocols restrict communications between the White House and prosecutors, and Bharara told the newspaper he called the White House back to say the Attorney General’s office had advised him not to speak directly with the president, in keeping with ethics protocols. “The president reached out to Preet Bharara on Thursday to thank him for his service and to wish him good luck,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a White House spokeswoman, said in an email to The Times. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-New York, praised Bharara in a statement March 11. “His relentless drive to root out public corruption, lock up terrorists, take on Wall Street, and stand up for what is right should serve as a model for all U.S. attorneys across the country. He will be sorely missed,” said Schumer. Bharara had worked as Schumer’s chief counsel for four years and the senator had recommended him for the post. Interestingly, after his appointment to the U.S. attorney’s office, Bharara had launched an investigation into one of Schumer’s donors.
During his seven years in the role, Bharara prosecuted several high-profile businessmen involved in insider trading, including former Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta, McKinsey senior partner Anil Kumar, and Galleon Group founder Raj Rajaratnam.
Bharara filed charges against Indian diplomat Khobragade in 2014 alleging that she committed visa fraud by lying on her employer contract about under-paying her Indian maid, Sangeeta Richard. Bharara’s office was currently investigating claims into possible fraud in fundraising for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat. He is also investigating whether aides to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, also a Democrat, were involved in bribery and bid-rigging.
Vichal Kumar, president of the South Asian Bar Association of North America, is reported to have stated in a statement, that Bharara’s legacy is one South Asian legal professionals and the greater legal community can only hope to emulate. His dedication to public service throughout his career is exemplified by his devotion to protecting the rights of all communities and not shying away from the toughest challenges. “We are proud of his accomplishments and wish him the best of luck,” Kumar added.