The day after Attorney General Jeff Sessions unceremoniously fired Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee said he believed the termination may have had something to do with investigations into President Donald Trump.
“Certainly there’s a lot of questions coming up as to whether Mr. Trump — President Trump — is concerned about the jurisdiction of this U.S. attorney, and whether that might affect his future” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. “When you look at everything, George, surrounding the investigations, there are a lot of questions that need to be asked.”
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) March 12, 2017
On Friday, Sessions asked for the resignation of all 46 sitting U.S. attorneys who had been appointed by Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama. It is unclear what prompted the call for this mass departure, although Fox News’ Sean Hannity had demanded a “purge” of “deep-state Obama holdovers” on his television show the night before.
Bharara declined to submit his resignation and was fired on Saturday. Trump had previously invited Bharara to remain in his post in the days before he assumed the presidency.
Cummings speculated that Bharara’s ouster had “something to do with” a letter the U.S. attorney received on Wednesday, two days before the call for mass resignations. In that letter, three government accountability groups asked Bharara to investigate whether Trump had violated the Constitution by receiving cash from foreign governments through his extensive business holdings.
The day after the letter was delivered, President Trump called Bharara’s office in an effort to speak with him personally. Bharara told both the White House and the Justice Department that he could not speak with the president because it would be a breach of protocol, according to the New York Times. The day after the screened call, Sessions asked that Bharara and 45 other U.S. attorneys resign. And the day after that, he fired Bharara.
Trump wasn’t the only prominent official who might have had reason to fear Bharara. The notoriously aggressive prosecutor was also a perpetual thorn in the sides of both New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D). Last month, an attorney involved in sexual harassment litigation against Fox News said Bharara’s office was leading “an ongoing criminal investigation” into the cable news network.