Preet Bharara, the crusading U.S. attorney in New York, has been fired by the Trump administration after refusing to resign.
That news came from Bharara himself, who tweeted it, one day after he launched an extraordinary showdown with the new president and his Attorney General by refusing orders to step down.
The move comes amidst a purge of U.S. Attorneys by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, even though the positions are supposed to be immune from political pressure.
Bharara had support even among some Republicans, but he also has old ties to a top Democratic Trump critic. “Like all of the nation’s 93 U.S. attorneys, Bharara is a political appointee who is typically replaced when a new president takes office,” according to Reuters.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Bharara Was One of 46 U.S. Attorneys Ordered to Resign
According to The New York Times, Bharara had initially been asked by the Trump administration to stay on and even met with Trump at Trump Tower.
That’s what made the resignation request so surprising to some; Bharara, despite long-standing ties to some Trump critics in the Democratic Party, had developed a reputation as a fiery crusader.
However, on Friday, a deputy Attorney General told 46 U.S. Attorneys who were holdovers from Barack Obama’s administration to immediately resign, and Bharara’s name was on that list, The New York Times reported. Bharara refused. On Saturday, he was fired.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, as U.S. Attorney, Bharara oversaw “the investigation and litigation of all criminal and civil cases brought on behalf of the United States in the Southern District of New York, which encompasses New York, Bronx, Westchester, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Sullivan counties. He supervises an office of more than 220 Assistant U.S. Attorneys, who handle a high volume of cases that include domestic and international terrorism, narcotics and arms trafficking, white collar crime, public corruption, gang violence, organized crime, and civil rights violations.”
2. Some Republicans Had Voiced Support for Bharara but He Was Once Chuck Schumer’s Chief Counsel
Bharara had some Republican support in New York, even after his refusal to resign.
But not everyone supported him.
However, Bharara also has Democratic ties, including to one of Donald Trump’s most persistent critics, Chuck Schumer, the Democratic U.S. Senator from New York.
“In 2005, Bharara moved to Washington, D.C., to serve as Senator Charles E. Schumer’s chief counsel on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. He also worked as staff director for the Senate Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, and helped lead the Senate’s investigation into the firing of several U.S. Attorneys during President George W. Bush’s second term,” said Columbia University in a bio of Bharara.
“President Barack Obama nominated Bharara to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York post in May 2009. The Senate unanimously confirmed his nomination, and he was sworn into office that August.”
3. Bharara Is an Immigrant From India
According to Columbia University, Bharara is an immigrant to the United States.
“Bharara was born in Ferozepur, India, and immigrated to the United States with his family when he was a young child. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard College in 1990 and his J.D. from Columbia Law School three years later. While attending the Law School, Bharara served as a member of the Columbia Law Review,” the university says.
He is married to Dalya Bharara, a non-practicing lawyer with whom he has two children. You can read more about Bharara’s wife here:
4. Bharara Has Handled Many High Profile Cases as U.S. Attorney & Reportedly Investigated the Clinton Foundation
Bharara, who was responsible for handling the Anthony Weiner case that helped derail Hillary Clinton’s campaign, was reportedly investigating the Clinton Foundation with the FBI. Some critics of the president point out that Bharara could have been in a position to investigate the Trump Foundation.
He’s also investigating New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio for possible corruption, reported The New York Post. Reported Reuters, “He has been overseeing a probe into New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fundraising.”
According to the Columbia University bio, “During the past four years, he has received praise for his handling of some of the most high-profile cases in U.S. history, such as the successful prosecutions of arms trafficker Viktor Bout, terrorist Faisal Shahzad, and hedge-fund manager Raj Rajaratnam. In February 2012, Time magazine featured Bharara on its cover, referring to him as the man who is ‘busting Wall St.’ In 2011, he was awarded Columbia Law School’s Lawrence A. Wien Prize for Social Responsibility.”
His Justice bio says Bharara’s office “recently secured the guilty plea of Peter Madoff for his role in his brother Bernard’s Ponzi scheme that included an agreement to a 10-year sentence, the statutory maximum.” According to Reuters, Bharara “won a $1.8 billion insider-trading settlement against SAC Capital Advisors, the largest in history.”
5. Trump Recently Accused Obama of Wiretapping Trump Tower – Without Evidence – but It’s Unclear Whether This Played a Role in Bharara’s Firing
Donald Trump made headlines when he accused the Obama administration, without providing proof, of wiretapping Trump Tower in Manhattan, an extraordinary claim. It’s not clear, though, whether that played a role in the about-face on Bharara.
Bharara is a wealthy man, despite his years of government service. “Bharara was an early investor in Quidsi, the parent company of Diapers.com, which was co-founded by his brother, Vinit,” reported BuzzFeed. “When Amazon acquired the company for $545 million in 2011, Bharara earned his cut,” the site says, reportedly over $1 million.
Bharara was also an assistant U.S. Attorney and “Mr. Bharara was a litigation associate in New York at Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman from 1996 to 2000 and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher from 1993 to 1996,” the Justice bio says.