Preet Bharara, the former US attorney for the southern district of New York, was investigating stock market trades by a member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet at the time of his firing last week, a news report said.
But ProPublica, the news publication that reported the investigation first based on an unidentified source “familiar with the office”, did not link it to Bharara’s firing, which came after he refused to resign as ordered by President Donald Trump.
Bharara’s office, which has jurisdiction over Wall Street and thus the stock market, was investigating Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price, who was attacked, during his confirmation hearing, for trading in stocks of health-related companies as he also worked for or against related legislations, as a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Georgia, ProPublica reported.
Price had insisted his trades were aboard, and was subsequently confirmed by a vote along party lines in the Republican-controlled Senate in February. He is now leading efforts to repeal and replace former president Barack Obama’s healthcare law.
Bharara was asked to step down last Friday along with 45 other US attorneys appointed by Obama, as has been the practice for decades. The Indian-born southern district prosecutor refused to quit, and waited to be fired.
He was, the next day, which he announced in a tweet. The Trump administration never assigned a specific reason for Bharara’s firing, which came as a surprise after he had been asked by Trump, as president-elect last year, to stay on.
It’s not known yet why Trump changed his mind. But he is reported to have called Bharara the day before the mass firing, to give him a heads up, but the prosecutor didn’t take the call then, and later told the White House he couldn’t speak with the President because of protocols governing such contacts.
The White House, the justice department, the health and human services department and Bharara’s erstwhile office had refused to speak to the publication for its report, but have not publicly disputed it for hours after its publication, or commented on it.
Bharara has not talked about his firing or the reasons for it since, but he did tweet about the Moreland Commission that New York governor Andrew Cuomo had appointed to investigate corruption in his government, but hastily disbanded when it seemed getting too close to his office.
“By the way, now I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like,” Bharara, who had continued the prosecution, sending several New York state politicians to jail, tweeted the day after he was fired. It was puzzling then, but probably not so any more.