On Friday, the administration of US president Donald Trump requested that 46 Obama-era US attorneys submit their resignations. Replacing a former administration’s prosecutors is not unusual in itself. But one name on the list came as a surprise: Preet Bharara, the federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York.
Although Bharara was appointed by Obama in 2009, he met with the president at Trump Tower in November of 2016, and afterward stated that he would remain in his post under the new administration.
“We had a good meeting,” he told reporters then. “I said I would absolutely consider staying on. I agreed to stay on.” He added that Jeff Sessions also asked him to keep his position: “He also asked that I stay on, and so I expect that I will be continuing.”
While other attorneys submitted their resignations on Friday evening, Bharara remained silent. Then on Saturday, in a tweet, he said he did not resign, and was fired:
“Being the US Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life,” he said.
During his tenure, Bharara was known for his relentless pursuit and prosecution of corruption:
“Bharara has a remarkable track record of taking on the biggest and baddest of big and bad guys,” wrote Sidin Vadukut for Quartz in 2013. “Bernie Madoff, Rajat Gupta, the Gambino crime family, Bank of America, cannibal policemen, and Republican senators have all fallen foul of Bharara’s commitment to uphold the law.”
He has also proven unafraid to challenge prominent politicians. In 2015, he won convictions of former State Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver and former State Senate majority leader Dean G. Skelos. In September of 2016, he charged two former aides to New York governor Andrew Cuomo with corruption.
“Preet has shown as a prosecutor that he is willing to take on the political establishment,” Arlo Devlin-Brown, a former colleague of Bharara’s told the New York Times “He’s also shown he can win. There is no question that these are qualities that the president-elect admires.”