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Preet Bharara Fired by Trump Team After Refusing to Resign

By Noah Hurowitz | March 11, 2017 3:27pm | Updated on March 13, 2017 10:08am
 U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced on Saturday he had been fired.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced on Saturday he had been fired.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

NEW YORK CITY — Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Saturday he was fired after refusing to resign his post.

Bharara, an Obama appointee President Donald Trump publicly asked to stay on in November, tweeted from his personal Twitter account at 2:29 p.m. Saturday that he had been fired. The news came a day after Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked for the resignations of 46 politically-appointed U.S. attorneys, according to news reports.

“Today, I was fired from my position as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.  Serving my country as U.S. Attorney here for the past seven years will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life, no matter what else I do or how long I live," Bharara said in a statement, about two hours after he tweeted the announcement. "One hallmark of justice is absolute independence, and that was my touchstone every day that I served."

The news came after a standoff between Bharara and Sessions as Bharara refused the order to step down, according to news reports. Bharara's refusal was first reported by the Daily Beast.

Bharara's deputy Joon H. Kim will serve as acting U.S. Attorney, Bharara said.

Also included in the mass firing was Robert L. Capers, the U.S. Attorney for New York's Eastern District, which covers Brooklyn and parts of Long Island. Capers had a far lower profile than Bharara, but the Eastern District, like the Southern, tends to prosecute a number of high-profile cases, including those involving terrorism. 

Capers had taken over in January 2016 after President Obama appointed former Eastern District head Loretta Lynch as U.S. attorney general.

The dismissal of the U.S. attorneys drew condemnation from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who said in a statement that the move cast doubt on whether Sessions is interested in protecting the non-partisan work of federal prosecutors.

"President Trump's abrupt and unexplained decision to summarily remove over 40 U.S. Attorneys has once again caused chaos in the federal government and led to questions about whether the Justice Department's vital and non-partisan work will continue under Attorney General Sessions, as it must," Schneiderman said.

Bharara, a former chief counsel to Senator Chuck Schumer, served for seven years and pursued high-profile cases against Wall Street tycoons accused of insider trading and elected officials and their aides accused of public corruption.

As federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York he hit hard at both parties, taking down former Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos, the former Republican State Senate majority leader, and often reveled in the spotlight as he gleefully goaded those accused of corruption or graft.

​His office has also been conducting a probe into whether Mayor Bill de Blasio and several aides conducted a pay-to-play scheme involving top donors and the mayor’s now-defunct nonprofit the Campaign for One New York.

CORRECTION: This story previously included a tweet attributed to former Attorney General of the United States Loretta Lynch, but it was from an unverified Twitter account.