On Friday, the Department of Justice asked for the resignations of 46 US attorneys. As a DoJ spokesperson pointed out, this is standard operating procedure when a new administration takes office:
“As was the case in prior transitions, many of the United States attorneys nominated by the previous administration already have left the Department of Justice. The attorney general has now asked the remaining 46 presidentially appointed US attorneys to tender their resignations in order to ensure a uniform transition,” Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores said.
Of the 46 US attorneys, only one refused to tender his resignation as per the request of Attorney General Jeff Sessions – US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, a high-profile Obama appointee in the prominent New York City district that prosecuted so many big cases. So since he refused to resign, Sessions did what Trump had previously done so many times on his show The Apprentice… he fired him:
I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired. Being the US Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life.
— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) March 11, 2017
What followed was a maelstrom of allegations, originating predominantly from MSM outlets, liberal politicians, and Bharara himself. The Huffington Post alluded that Bharara was fired because he dared to probe Fox News sexual harassment settlements:
Preet Bharara was fired while his office was reaching out to witnesses in an investigation into one of President Donald Trump’s favorite news outlets, Fox News, New York Magazine reports.
Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, was in charge of a probe to determine if Fox News had hidden from shareholders payments to settle sexual harassment complaints against ousted news chief Roger Ailes, CNN Money and The New York Daily News reported last month. Both Ailes and Fox owner Rupert Murdoch are close friends of Trump. Fox News told CNN then that investigators from Bharara’s office had been in touch, but Fox would not confirm that the company was the target of a probe.
The New York Times, which noted Bharara’s “record” on Wall Street crime, insisted that he was fired for refusing to take a call from President Trump:
Preet Bharara — considered one of the most aggressive and outspoken prosecutors of public corruption and Wall Street crime in the United States — was asked to resign on Friday along with 45 other United States attorneys who had been appointed by President Barack Obama.
When his answer to President Trump’s office was no, he said he was fired.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) went on a “tweetstorm” against Trump after this “news” was leaked, as per The Washington Examiner:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sunday went on a tweetstorm against President Trump a day after he fired a top federal prosecutor in New York.
Warren suggested that Preet Bharara was fired because he “had authority over Trump Tower.”
“Preet Bharara had authority over Trump Tower. [Trump] called him directly, breaching protocol. 24 hrs later he was asked to resign,” Warren tweeted, referring to Trump’s reported phone call to the attorney Thursday, which broke rules prohibiting sitting U.S. attorneys from speaking with the president.
And then Preet Bharara himself made a “cryptic” claim that he was fired for investigating Trump himself, as per The Week:
By the way, now I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like.
— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) March 12, 2017
The Moreland Commission was set up by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in July 2013 to investigate corruption in state politics — then abruptly disbanded by Cuomo in March 2014 after, The New York Times reports, “Cuomo had hobbled its work, intervening when it focused on groups with ties to the governor or on issues that might reflect poorly on him.” Bharara — who successfully prosecuted more than two dozen New York politicians of both parties for corruption, including the leaders of the state Assembly and state Senate — looked into Cuomo’s handling of the Moreland Commission but ultimately concluded there was not enough evidence to prove a federal crime.
Yes, Preet Bharara wants you to believe that Trump fired 46 US attorneys all because one of them didn’t return his call, all due to the fact that he was investigating the President himself. Not only that, the MSM and liberal politicians are jumping in on the same act.
What none of them mentioned is that this is standard operating procedure for any new incoming administration. Once a new executive takes office, they fire all of the US attorneys from the previous administration within the first year, whether it is gradually or abruptly done. The LA Times stated in 2007 that the practice dated back to the Reagan administration:
Reagan replaced 89 of the 93 U.S. attorneys in his first two years in office. President Clinton had 89 new U.S. attorneys in his first two years, and President Bush had 88 new U.S. attorneys in his first two years.
In 2009, President Barack Obama asked for the resignation of George W. Bush-appointed U.S. Attorneys. When he replaced virtually all of them, it was treated as nothing out of the ordinary. That’s because it wasn’t.
In March 1993 President Bill Clinton had Attorney General Janet Reno fire 93 of the 94 U.S. Attorneys appointed by the prior administration. (Only Michael Chertoff was retained, apparently at the request of Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J.) Again, there was no outrage over these firings.
About two months into his term, Bill Clinton fired the majority of the US attorneys held over from Bush Sr.’s administration. It wasn’t an issue… because of how commonly it had been done in the past.
But all of a sudden, when Trump does the same thing, the mainstream media turns the issue into a political witch hunt, even though the whole thing was clearly a stunt Bharara pulled. Even CNN was forced to state the obvious, before explaining why Bharara had to be the nail that needed to be hammered down:
As impolite as it seems, demanding resignations from US attorneys is actually standard operating procedure in the DOJ when a new administration assumes power. Historically, Presidents clear out almost all the US attorneys from the prior administration. President Bill Clinton appointed 80 new US attorneys in his first year of office, out of 93 posts. That’s definitely a housecleaning.It’s a clever chess move by Bharara: force the firing, make the administration look like the tyrants. It’s not like it hurts Bharara; this is one legal luminary whose job prospects will not be harmed by being “fired” from his last job. As CNN Legal Analyst Paul Callan observed, former US attorneys from this district have even ascended to the New York City mayor’s office after their tenure.
Now it all makes sense – Bharara is just making a big deal out of nothing, all to position himself for another, bigger job, likely the Governor’s office, as The Daily Beast points out:
Now he’s had that yanked away. And when he sees the culture of corruption in New York, he’ll have to grit his teeth and bear it like everyone else. Or not.
Fortunately, there is something Bharara, a Democrat, can do to complete his work and open a great new chapter in his storied career: run for governor next year against Cuomo.
And even though the MSM will tout his record as tough on Wall Street…
Bharara’s most prized target was hedge-fund billionaire Steve Cohen. He never made a criminal case against Cohen but he went after several employees of Cohen’s SAC Capital, and the company was fined $1.8 billion in 2013.
More recently, Bharara prosecuted two executives from Valeant Pharmaceuticals who were arrested in November last year and charged with concocting a massive fraud scheme.
The Civil Frauds Unit that Bharara created landed nearly $500 million in settlements. That includes multi-million dollar deals with CitiMortgage and Deutsche Bank for engaging in the type of reckless lending practices that led to the financial crisis.
The truth is, the biggest “fish” he ever put behind bars was Raj Rajartnam, who Bharara claimed made a “whopping” $63.8 million in trading on insider information. Yet, no one who propagated the financial crisis faced more than a fine:
Bharara and senior officials in Washington argue that there were no criminal cases to file after the 2008 crisis. But the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan did pursue significant civil cases against the banks for their mortgage activities, cases that had to proove misconduct by the “preponderance of the evidence.” And DOJ did win guilty pleas from the banks themselves, an indication that prosecutors might have been able to charge individuals for their part in crimes their institutions had acknowledged. Academics who studied those years, including Columbia’s Tomasz Piskorski and James Witkin and Chicago’s Amit Seru found widespread patterns of fraud in the mortgage business.
The exception makes this failure all the more puzzling. As I detailed in 2014, Bharara’s office brought one case for misconduct during the financial crisis — against a mid-level banker. Prosecutors charged Kareem Serageldin of Credit Suisse with overseeing traders who knowingly misrepresented the value of mortgage securities. Serageldin pleaded guilty and went to prison.
Every CEO of every major bank? No criminal punishment whatsoever. In fact, though the companies paid fines, none of the CEOs forfeited any monies out of their own pockets. Notably, he was completely unable to imprison Jon Corzine, who knowingly stole billions of “segregated” client funds to “finance” his losing trading positions.
Now, Preet Bharara is dramatized as Chuck Rhoades on Showtime’s series Billions, as I have written about in the past. The show, of course, makes sure to characterize his “stand” against hedge fund manager Steve Cohen, dramatized as Bobby “Axe” Axelrod, as one of a righteous prosecutor who will do whatever it takes, even breaking a couple rules, to bring a notorious “robber baron” scoundrel of a hedge fund manager to justice. And even the creators and the MSM jumped at the chance to support him after he was fired:
“Billions” creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien took to Twitter to show their support for Bharara.
“I’ve always admired @PreetBharara, who is as hilarious as he is smart,” Koppelman wrote Saturday. “He’s also a man of honor and principle, which he’s proving again now.”
— Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman) March 11, 2017
“Billions” is inspired by the events around Bharara’s investigation of hedge-fund manager Steven Cohen as part of a crackdown on insider trading. In the Showtime series, Paul Giamatti portrays fictional U.S. Attorney Charles Rhoades Jr. while Damian Lewis plays fictional hedge-fund manager, Bobby Axelrod. Showtime just renewed the series for a third season earlier this month.
Maybe Preet Bharara will now have time to answer the following question: Why was his office unable to prosecute Jon Corzine, and does that have anything to do with the fact that he was such a big Obama bundler, the guy who appointed Bharara in the first place? You can ask Brian Koppelman and David Levien to make a Billions episode about it, but don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen.