President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Marc Kasowitz bragged to friends that he was behind the president’s decision to fire U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, four sources familiar with the conversations told ProPublica.
According to their reporting, Kasowitz told Trump, “this guy is going to get you,” regarding Bharara.
Some familiar with Kasowitz reportedly cautioned that he tends to exaggerate his importance. But if ProPublica’s report is true, it would indicate that Trump’s personal attorney, who is handling matters related to the Russia probe, has also been involved in matters of governance.
Sheesh, I haven't even had my covfefe yet. https://t.co/50v0h1I3uF
— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) June 13, 2017
It’s common for presidents to ask U.S. attorneys to resign when the administration turns over. In November, however, Trump asked Bharara — the U.S. Attorney for the powerful Southern District of New York — to continue in his role.
Then, in March, Trump abruptly asked all the remaining U.S. attorneys to turn in their resignations. After Bharara refused, the president fired him.
As a U.S. attorney, Bharara had a reputation for taking on powerful politicians. His jurisdiction included Trump Tower and Trump’s New York business interests. At the time of his firing, he was reportedly investigating stock trades made by Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, and heading up an investigation into payments made by Fox News to cover up allegations of sexual harassment against then-chairman Roger Ailes. After being ousted from Fox, Ailes became an adviser to Trump’s campaign.
On Sunday, Bharara told ABC that Trump fired him after a series of “unusual” phone calls, which made him feel that the president could be trying to undermine his independence as a federal prosecutor.
“It appeared to be that he was trying to cultivate some kind of relationship,” he said. Trump called Bharara three times; the third time, Bharara did not return the call. Twenty-two hours later, Trump fired him.
Bharara’s account matches that of ousted FBI director James Comey, who testified in the Senate last week about a series of uncomfortable interactions with the president. According to Comey, Trump asked him for his “loyalty” and said he “hoped” Comey would drop the investigation into former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
In a shocking move, Trump fired Comey in early May. The president told Lester Holt in a subsequent interview that he was thinking of Comey’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian election hacking when he removed Comey.
The firings fit into an emerging pattern of Trump firing public officials who criticize him. In January, he fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she refused to defend his first travel ban.
Yates said that the ban was unconstitutional and discriminatory. She was fired immediately thereafter. Two versions of the ban have since been struck down repeatedly by the courts as unconstitutional and discriminatory.
On Monday night, Trump confidant and CEO of the conservative NewsMax Media Christopher Ruddy told PBS that Trump is considering firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is now in charge of the independent probe into the Russia allegations.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer responded that “only the president or his attorneys are authorized to comment” on the matter.
If Trump were to fire Mueller — who was appointed after Comey’s firing prompted questions of obstruction of justice — it would bring up immediate parallels to one of the most explosive sequences of the Watergate saga. In what is now referred to as the Saturday Night Massacre, Nixon ordered his attorney general to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox, leading to the resignation of both Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus in protest.