The speculation over whether Trump would or would not fire the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, who earlier reportedly said he would not resign on his own, came to a close a 2:29pm ET when Preet Bharara, tweeting from his private Twitter account, announced he had been fired.
"I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired. Being the US Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life."
I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired. Being the US Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life.
— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) March 11, 2017
Bharara’s dismissal ended an "extraordinary" showdown in which a political appointee who was named by Mr. Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, declined an order to submit a resignation.
“I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired. Being the US Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life,” Mr. Bharara wrote on his personal Twitter feed, which he set up in the last two weeks. Bharara was among 46 holdover Obama appointees who were called by the acting deputy attorney general on Friday and told to immediately submit resignations and plan to clear out of their offices. But Bharara, who was called to Trump Tower for a meeting with the incoming president in late November 2016, declined to do so.
As reported previously, Bharara said he was asked by Trump to remain in his current post at the meeting. Bharara met with Trump at Trump Tower, and then addressed reporters afterward. Before the firing, one of New York’s top elected Republicans voiced support for Bharara on Saturday.
The Southern District of New York, which Bharara has overseen since 2009, encompasses Manhattan, Trump’s home before he was elected president, as well as the Bronx, Westchester, and other counties north of New York City. Last weekend, Trump accused Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower in Manhattan, an allegation which various Congressmen have said they will launch a probe into.
And now the speculation will begin in earnest why just three months after Bharara, who at the time was conducting a corruption investigation into NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio as well as into aides of NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo, told the press that Trump had asked him to "stay on" he is being fired and whether this may indicate that the NYSD has perhaps opened a probe into Trump himself as some have speculated. For more on the unexpected break between the two, read here.
Earlier on Saturday, ProPublica's Jesse Eisinger proposed some good ideas in tweet format over the tension between Trump and Bharara, as follows:
- The Preet Bharara drama began with a mystery: Why did Trump ask him to stay on in November, after their meeting in Trump Tower?
- Why would Trump ask @USAttyBharara, an ostensibly tough US attorney and--more importantly here-- former Schumer aide, to stay on?
- Was Schumer making a deal? Trump & Schumer go way back in NY politics. What was @PreetBharara going to do in return?
- Maybe Trump liked that @PreetBharara going after high-profile NY Dems. Maybe he thought it would look worse for his appointee to do so.
- Or maybe Trump just liked the cut of @PreetBharara's jib and made the decision in a split-second, on instinct.
- So what's changed? Did SDNY start some kind of investigation of Trump? Is Preet collateral damage in Trump's war vs the bureaucracy?
- & what does this mean for ongoing Cuomo & DeBlasio investigations? Would indictments from, say, USAtty Marc Mukasey be viewed the same?
- That is, if Trump actually fires @USAttyBharara, who then becomes just @PreetBharara.
- And is Trump launching the political career of @PreetBharara by martyring him?
- Irrespective, it's great for @USAttyBharara, who didn't prosecute Wall St banks after the finl crisis & suffered no reputational damage.
To be sure, moments after the resignation, some of Trump's most vocal opponents promptly took the president to task over the decision:
Might be very convenient to Donald Trump to leave the US Attorneyship for SDNY vacant for a long, long, long time.
— David Frum (@davidfrum) March 11, 2017
Finally, as a reminder, in 1993 Jeff Sessions was fired by Bill Clinton's Attorney General Janet Reno in exactly the same way.
Why are we pretending that Trump replacing US attorneys is something new? Jeff Sessions was canned by Bill Clinton in the same process. pic.twitter.com/hfDlfYfEfY
— Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) March 11, 2017