Among the 46 US attorney’s appointed by President Barack Obama asked to resign on Friday by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, one name seemed at least slightly curious: Preet Bharara, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York.
That’s because President Donald Trump invited him to Trump Tower in late November during the transition period and asked him to stay on at his post.
Following their meeting on November 30, Bharara told reporters he “agreed to stay on” after speaking with the then-President-elect.
“The President-elect asked, presumably because he’s a New Yorker and is aware of the great work that our office has done over the past seven years, asked to meet with me to discuss whether or not I’d be prepared to stay on as the United States attorney to do the work as we have done it, independently, without fear or favor for the last seven years,” Bharara said.
“I have already spoken to Sen. Sessions, who is, as you know, is the nominee to be the attorney general,” he continued. “He also asked that I stay on, and so I expect that I will be continuing to work at the southern district.”
One of the highest-profile US attorneys, Bharara built a reputation on vigorously going after corruption cases involving New York elected officials and aides of those office holders. In addition, the Wall Street industry was within his scope as US attorney.
Currently, his office is looking into a case related to a top adviser of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as well as a probe into allegations that New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio and his allies engaged in a pay-for-play.
The Friday move by the Justice Department was to ask for the resignations of all remaining US attorney’s appointed by Obama. The move is not unusual. For example, soon after President Bill Clinton first took office, asked all 93 US attorneys to resign on the same day. The attorneys are political appointees.
“As was the case in prior transitions, many of the United States Attorneys nominated by the previous administration already have left the Department of Justice,” Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores told the New York Times in an email. “The Attorney General has now asked the remaining 46 presidentially appointed US Attorneys to tender their resignations in order to ensure a uniform transition.”
“Until the new US Attorneys are confirmed, the dedicated career prosecutors in our US Attorney’s Offices will continue the great work of the department in investigating, prosecuting, and deterring the most violent offenders.”
The call came less than a day after Fox News host Sean Hannity — an unabashed Trump supporter with a massive audience — called for a “purge” of the Justice Department employees appointed by Obama during his opening monologue.