Never mind all the bullshit President Donald Trump has spread about how much he supports law enforcement. That claim was eviscerated on Saturday when Comrade Trump fired U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, one of the most prolific and successful federal prosecutors in recent memory—and also one of Wall Street’s biggest nemeses.
Bharara’s firing comes amid an ongoing purge by the Trump administration of 46 U.S. attorneys held over from the administration of President Barack Obama, The New York Times first reported on Friday. The federal prosecutors were asked to tender their resignations, but Bharara, who believed he was not going to be asked to leave, refused.
According to The Washington Post:
On Friday, acting deputy attorney general Dana Boente began making calls to 46 prosecutors asking for their resignations. Such requests are a normal part of a transition of power from one administration to another, and about half of the 94 Obama-era U.S. attorneys had already left their jobs.
But Boente’s call to Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, appears to have left some confusion in its wake, in large part because President Trump met with Bharara soon after the election and had asked him to stay on.
During Friday’s call, Bharara asked for clarity about whether the requests for resignations applied to him, given his previous conversation with Trump, and did not immediately get a definitive answer, according to a person familiar with the exchange.
According to The Washington Post, citing two sources close to the president, Trump’s chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and Attorney General Jeff Sessions “want a clean slate of federal prosecutors and are unconcerned about any perception that the White House appears to have changed its mind about Bharara.”
But as The New York Times noted, Trump’s penchant for taking his lead from Fox News and other right-wing sources seems to be continuing:
But the calls from the acting deputy attorney general arose a day after Sean Hannity, the Fox News commentator who is a strong supporter of President Trump, said on his evening show that Mr. Trump needed to ‘purge’ Obama holdovers from the federal government. Mr. Hannity portrayed them as ‘saboteurs’ from the ‘deep state’ who were leaking secrets to hurt Mr. Trump. It also came the same week that government watchdogs wrote to Mr. Bharara and urged him to investigate whether Mr. Trump had violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which bars federal officials from taking payments from foreign governments.
In a statement issued on Friday, CA Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein pointed out the peculiar timing and manner of the Trump administration’s abrupt move, which according to The New York Times included asking several prosecutors to vacate their offices “by the end of the day.”
At a time when Attorney General Sessions has recused himself from major investigations into the Trump campaign, the independence of federal prosecutors could not be more important. That’s why many of us have called for the appointment of a special prosecutor.
Under previous administrations, orderly transitions allowed U.S. attorneys to leave gradually as their replacements were chosen. This was done to protect the independence of our prosecutors and avoid disrupting ongoing federal cases.
In January, I met with Vice President Pence and White House Counsel Donald McGahn and asked specifically whether all U.S. attorneys would be fired at once. Mr. McGahn told me that the transition would be done in an orderly fashion to preserve continuity. Clearly this is not the case. I’m very concerned about the effect of this sudden and unexpected decision on federal law enforcement.