NEW YORK — Preet Bharara, the crusading federal prosecutor who brought down several top state legislators only to be fired last month by President Trump, took a shot at the president's team Thursday, lamenting the "incompetence" demonstrated by his March 11 firing.
In his first interview since his dismissal, which the New York Times published online Thursday afternoon, Bharara called his firing “a direct example of the kind of uncertain helter-skelter incompetence, when it comes to personnel decisions and executive actions, that was in people’s minds when this out-of-the-blue call for everyone’s resignation letter came.”
Bharara's firing came a day after the Trump administration sent a letter to all U.S. attorneys appointed by former President Barack Obama, asking them to resign.
Figuring that Trump had asked him to stay on, Bharara refused to quit — only to get fired instead.
Bharara told the Times that he's never been told why he was fired less than four months after Trump had asked him to continue as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
The former prosecutor also told the Times that Trump called him three times after asking him to stay on. Bharara never took or returned the calls, fearing that doing so would run afoul of Justice Department policy regarding communications between prosecutors and presidents.
“I do not think it is wise for a sitting president to try cultivating a personal telephonic relationship with a sitting U.S. attorney, especially one with a certain jurisdiction,” he said, apparently referring to the fact that Trump Tower is located in the Southern District of New York.
Bharara told the Times that speaking with Trump would have subjected him to the same kind of criticism that Loretta Lynch, the last U.S. attorney general, faced when she held an impromptu meeting with former President Bill Clinton while Clinton's wife, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, was under investigation by the FBI.
“I mean, either way,” Bharara told the Times, “people would say: ‘All we know is the president called Preet. Preet only has his job because the president bizarrely asked him to stay. And you know what? Preet didn’t charge that guy. Preet didn’t open that investigation. They must have made a deal.’ ”
The Times interview appeared on the same day that Bharara was set to make his first speech since his firing. Watch his speech here:
He was speaking in an auspicious setting -- the hall where Abraham Lincoln gave the speech that catapulted him to the presidency.
Don't expect the same thing to happen to Bharara, who denies any political aspirations and who would not be eligible for the presidency because he was born in India.
But Bharara has never been shy about his opinions, so he's likely to be distinctly not shy in delivering his lecture at the Cooper Union, a small college most famous for Lincoln's 1860 speech launching his presidential campaign.
Bharara spent an eventful seven years as the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, bringing successful prosecutions against everyone from then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, to then-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican.
And in a sign of his continuing influence, a federal judge here Thursday set an Oct. 30 trial date in a statewide corruption case filed by Bharara involving the Buffalo Billion and other state projects in Syracuse, Albany and Orange County.
That case could be split in two, with one trial starting in Western New York on Oct. 30 and another in New York on Jan. 8, Judge Valerie Caproni ruled.
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