A prominent US federal prosecutor in New York City has been fired by President Donald Trump’s administration after refusing to resign as directed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions who demanded that all Obama-appointed federal attorneys step down.
Preet Bharara, a Manhattan federal prosecutor known for his anti-public corruption campaign, announced on Saturday that he was sacked by Trump, who had asked him months ago that he wants him to stay on board.
"I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired. Being the US Attorney in SDNY (Souther District of New York) will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life," Bharara said in a tweet message.
Although US attorneys are commonly substituted at the beginning of new administrations, the decision to sack Bharara came as a surprise since he reportedly met in November with then President-elect Trump, who specifically asked him to remain Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor and he accepted the offer.
This is while Sessions had also called on Bharara to remain in his post, as cited in local press reports.
Some reports further indicated that the New York prosecutor would refuse to resign and had told his section chiefs that he may challenge Sessions to fire him.
Bharara built a reputation in New York by going after major banks and the Wall Street. His office has been working through an investigation of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and was slated to begin the trials of two close allies to Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Meanwhile, some US-based NGOs, including Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, sent Bharara a letter this week urging him to investigate Trump’s ties with foreign governments.
The message reportedly also called on Bharara to probe whether Trump has received payments or other benefits from foreign governments through his business interests.
Moreover, a number of US lawmakers also censured the Trump administration for the mass-firing of so many federal prosecutors.
"While it’s true that presidents from both parties made their own choices for US Attorney positions across the country, they have always done so in an orderly fashion that doesn’t put ongoing investigations at risk. They ask for letters of resignation but the attorneys are allowed to stay on the job until their successor is confirmed," said Democratic New York Senator Charles Schumer.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, also issued a statement slamming the "abrupt firing" of federal prosecutors.