Just hours after saying he would not resign, Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced on Twitter he has been fired by the Trump administration.
“I did not resign,” Bharara wrote. “Moments ago I was fired. Being the US Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions requested on Friday for the remaining 46 Obama-era U.S. attorneys in the Justice Department to resign. Bharara refused, setting up a showdown with President Donald Trump that ended with Bharara’s firing.
Bharara was appointed as a U.S. attorney by former President Barack Obama and is widely considered to be a top prosecutor. Bharara earned his chops taking down some of Wall Street’s biggest fraudsters, including Raj Rajaratnam, who was convicted in 2011 for engaging in insider trading and is now serving an 11-year sentence in prison. Rajaratnam was also fined $93 million.
Bharara is also well-known for his successful takedown of billionaire Steve Cohen’s SAC Capital hedge fund, which was fined $1.8 billion in 2013.
Bharara, who was described as “a force to be reckoned with” by a federal law-enforcement source in a recent New York Post article, has had a history of prosecuting both high-profile Democrats and Republicans.
For instance, his office has been investigating allegations against Bill de Blasio, the far-left Democratic mayor of New York City, for potentially violating campaign ethics laws by trading political favors to donors in exchange for campaign donations in 2013.
Trump’s decision to purge the Justice Department of the remaining U.S. attorneys comes days and weeks after the Trump administration and its advisors and top allies have suggested officials with Obama ties working within the current administration are actively subverting Trump’s reform efforts.
On Friday, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said in interview with MSNBC, “If I were Donald Trump, I would take a look at all of my political appointees that — and anybody that was an appointment that came from the Obama administration. I would end that tomorrow morning, or tonight for that matter.”
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) immediately condemned the decision to fire Bharara.
“While it’s true that presidents from both parties made their own choices for U.S. attorney positions across the country, they have always done so in an orderly fashion that doesn’t put ongoing investigations at risk,” Schumer said. “They ask for letters of resignation, but the attorneys are allowed to stay on the job until their successor is confirmed.”
Currently, there is no clear timetable for when the recently removed U.S. attorneys will be replaced by the Trump administration.