Following yesterday's report that the DOJ has asked all 46 remaining Obama-appointed US attorney to resign, there was confusion whether that also included the noted attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara. As we discussed on Friday, Trump had previously asked the Obama-appointed Manhattan attorney to stay on. In December, Bharara said that then president-elect Trump had asked to see him to discuss "whether or not I'd be prepared to stay on as the United States attorney to do the work as we have done it, independently, without fear or favor for the last seven years." "We had a good meeting," Mr. Bharara said. "I said I would absolutely consider staying on. I agreed to stay on."
However, as NBC confirmed, Bharara was indeed one of the Attorneys asked to resigns, suggesting that something may have changed in the amicable relationship between Trump and Bharara in the past few months.
Now, according to various press reports from both the NYT and CNN, Bharara is refusing the Trump administration's demand to resign, and as CNN reporter Jeff Zelezny adds, Bharara "will make Donald Trump fire him."
HOLDOVER: Bharara is not submitting his resignation, according to several ppl briefed - WH not responding to what they'll do next.— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) March 11, 2017
CNN added more color to Bharara's decision
...this according to source familiar w meeting and what @PreetBharara told reporters afterwards. WH no comment yet on why change of mind...— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) March 11, 2017
Brian Kolb, the New York State Assembly's Republican leader, tweeted his support of Bharara in the wake of the reports.
Good for Preet, he is doing the job he was appointed to do! https://t.co/4WqOgRfZht— Brian Kolb (@GOPLdrBrianKolb) March 11, 2017
Additionally, according to a report in the Daily Beast, Bharara told his section chiefs that he’d yet to submit the requested letter and may instead challenge Sessions to fire him. Bharara's office is working through an investigation of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and about to start the trials of two close allies to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Should Trump fire Bharara, who has been the US Attorney responsible for Wall Street crime for more than seven years, he may be seen a further siding with Wall Street - which has been the source of most of his close economic advisors - against one of the few attorneys who pressed charges against banks in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Ironically, some have accused Bharara of not being strict enough on the institutions found to have been criminally liable with virtually no bankers ending up in jail, and instead it was mostly shareholders being punished with banks forced to pay nearly a quarter trillion in legal fees and settlements over the past decade for violations from RMBS selling, to LIBOR, to FX and gold market rigging.
As the NYT adds, should Bharara be fired, "it was unclear what effect his expected departure might have on the office's current investigations." Among his existing investigations, the highest profile one involves a group of former aides and associates of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in a wide-ranging bribery and bid-rigging case and has been investigating Mayor Bill de Blasio's campaign fund-raising as part of an inquiry into whether he or other officials exchanged official acts for political donations. The investigation into Mr. de Blasio's fund-raising, perhaps the office's highest profile continuing inquiry, began roughly a year ago and appears to be in its final stages, with prosecutors and F.B.I. agents interviewing the mayor for four hours two weeks ago. Investigators have scrutinized scores of donors to the mayor's 2013 campaign and his now defunct political nonprofit, seeking to determine whether anyone received favorable city action in exchange for their largess. It remains unclear whether Mr. Bharara and his top aides have determined whether they will seek charges — against the mayor, any of his top aides or his primary fund-raiser.
Among the names of lawyers mentioned as a possible United States attorney in Manhattan in the Trump administration is Marc L. Mukasey, a former Southern District prosecutor and the son of Michael B. Mukasey, the former attorney general in the Bush administration. The younger Mukasey is now a lawyer at Greenberg Traurig, a law firm in New York where Rudolph W. Giuliani, a close associate of Trump, also works. Mr. Mukasey declined to comment on Friday.
Bharara is no stranger to politics: as the NYT notes, before being appointed United States attorney by President Barack Obama in 2009, he served as chief counsel to Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, and played a major role in the Senate Judiciary Committee's investigation into the politically motivated firings of United States attorneys by the Justice Department under President George W. Bush