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Trump fires Bharara after he refuses to resign

High profile Indian American attorney Preet Bharara was fired by the Trump administration on Saturday after he refused to resign. The administration had also asked 45 other attorneys to resign.

world Updated: Mar 12, 2017 11:39 IST
Yashwant Raj
Preet Bharara
File photo of U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara .(REUTERS)

The Trump administration on Saturday fired Preet Bharara, the high profile Indian American attorney often called the Sheriff of Wall Street after he refused to hand over his resignation as directed by the President along with 45 others.

“I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired,” Bharara announced on Twitter, ending an intriguing stand-off that may have begun with a phone call from the White House to his office Thursday.

They wanted him to call back. He did, according to a published account of the interactions, but only let them know he couldn’t speak to the President, as required by protocols about contacts between US attorneys and the President.

Bharara, who as US attorney for the Southern District of New York had built a reputation pursuing security scams and insiders deals on Wall Street, was asked on Friday to resign along with 45 other appointed by President Barack Obama.

Every new president does that — President Bill Clinton removed 90 US attorneys after taking office — and President Donald Trump was doing the same, as a justice department spokeswoman said in explanation of the resignations.

His sacking was surprising, considering he had apparently been asked by Trump to continue. The attorney in November had said that Trump asked him to stay on

“I said I would absolutely consider staying on. I agreed to stay on. I have already spoken to Senator Sessions, who is as you know is the nominee to be the attorney general. He also asked that I stay on, and so I expect that I will be continuing to work at the southern district,” he had told reporters.

On Friday, he was asked to resign.

Unidentified White House officials told The New York Times, President Trump had indeed asked Bharara to continue in anticipation of better relations with Senator from New York Chuck Schumer, who is something of mentor to Bharara.

Schumer is the leader of Senate Democrats and Trump might have wanted him on his side to help his legislative agenda, but the two of them have since clashed on almost every issue with the ensuing war of words ending in name-calling.

Bharara had then become the third Indian American invited by Trump to join his administration after South Carolina governor Nikki Haley who was appointed as US ambassador to the UN and Seema Verma for medicaid and medicare services.

Bharara was also the first and only Obama appointee to have been asked till then to continue, which is not altogether rare. Obama had asked Bob Gates, who was appointed by President George W Bush, to continue as his secretary of defense.