Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara had some harsh words for President Donald Trump Sunday morning, including acknowledging that enough circumstantial evidence exists to begin an obstruction of justice case against the president.
Speaking with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week, Bharara, who Trump fired in March without explaining why, said, “I think there is absolutely evidence to begin a case. I think it’s very important for all sorts of armchair speculators in the law to be clear that no one knows right now whether there is a provable case of obstruction. It’s also true I think, from based on what I see as a third party and out of government, that there’s no basis to say that there’s no obstruction.”
Bharara also addressed one of the oft–repeated mantras of the Trump administration and its supporters in addressing his firing: that U.S. attorneys serve at the president’s leisure.
“This point on whether or not the president has legal authority to fire or to direct an investigation, I don’t really get it. It’s a little silly to me. The fact that you have authority to remove someone from office doesn’t automatically immunize that act from criminal responsibility,” Bharara said.
Also during the interview, Bharara said that Trump had carried out a series of unusual conversations with him, starting with Trump’s invitation during the presidential transition for Bharara to go to Trump Tower. During that meeting, Bharara says Trump asked him to stay on as U.S. attorney. Trump followed that meeting up with two phone calls to Bharara as president–elect, the former U.S. attorney said.
“They’re very unusual phone calls,” Bharara said. “And when I’ve been reading the stories about how the president has been contacting Jim Comey over time, it felt a little bit like déjà vu. I’m not the FBI director, but I was the chief federal law enforcement officer in Manhattan with jurisdiction over a lot of things, including business interests and other things in New York.”
To put that in context, the former U.S. attorney said that during former President Barack Obama’s two terms in office, he never called Bharara. And it was a third phone call by President Trump that led to Bharara’s firing. Bharara refused to take that call and reported it to the Department of Justice. The next day, he was fired.
During the interview, Mark Corallo, who is managing communications for Trump’s legal team handling the Comey affair and was described by the National Journal as a “street smart Republican spin doctor,” sent three tweets criticizing Bharara for his comments on ABC. Many questioned those tweets for crossing an ethical line:
Bharara quickly responded: