Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Trump fires US Attorney who might prosecute him.

Presidents appoint the U.S. Attorneys who investigate and prosecute federal crimes, and each is assigned to a circumscribed district.   Preet Bharara was one of the best.  He has successfully won cases against leading Republican figures in the New York State Legislature.   He has also investigated ethical and possible criminal charges in Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration.   So he has shown that he is politically impartial.

It is not unusual for a new president, especially when there's a change of party, to request the resignation of all U.S. Attorneys so that he can appoint his own people.  These are after all political appointments, like cabinet positions, and they require Senate confirmation.

But President-Elect Trump had met with Preet Bharara last fall during the transition;  he asked Bharara if he would be willing to stay on and continue his important work.  According to Bharara, VP Elect Pence was also in the meeting, which he left with the understanding that he would stay on in his job.

Last Wednesday, Bharara's office received a call from President Trump asking for him to return a call.   Because of protocols that strictly determine communications between presidents and U.S. Attorneys (to prevent improper pressure being brought by presidents in cases of interest), Bharara did not return the call.   Instead he called the Attorney General's office and notified them of the call and explained why he did not return it.

On Friday, Bharara was notified by the Acting Attorney General that his resignation was being requested, along with the other 45 U.S. Attorneys.   Bharara refused to resign, and he was then fired, without any further discussion about it.

What changed?   No reasons have been given publicly.  It's just being passed off as routine change, like all the others.   But he wasn't.   He had been singled out and asked to continue by the president-elect.

And what about the Wednesday call from DJT?    Was he calling to explain why he was asking him to resign?    Or did the notoriously thin-skinned, vindictive DJT get miffed that his called was not returned, and this was retaliation?

Or is it that somebody woke up to the fact that this highly effective, fearless prosecutor -- who is tough on white collar crime -- would be the one to investigate the Trump Organization and all its conflicts of interest, foreign connections, etc?   Does it have anything to do with the letter from several ethics watchdog organizations, asking Bharara to open such an investigation?

There are some clues that this was a hasty decision, because there was no warning;  and all 46 fired attorneys -- including Bharana -- were told to clear out their offices and be gone by the end of the day.   No transition, no briefing of others on cases in progress.   Essentially, it was just a "Get out!  Now!!" kind of firing.   And it came just two days after a conference call between AG Sessions and all these U.S. Attorneys, where future plans were discussed and no mention was made of possible resignations.

On  her show last night, Rachel Maddow added another clue to the puzzle.   Deutche Bank got into serious trouble and paid huge fines for cooperating with a money-laundering scheme by Russian oligarchs.   Preet Bharana is the U.S. Attorney handling that case.  Another little fact:  Donald Trump himself owes hundreds of millions of dollars to Deutche Bank.    Donald Trump just fired Preet Bharana as U.S. Attorney.

Stay tuned.    This all gets "curioser and curioser," said Alice.


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