The former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York urged public servants to “say no to the President.”
Preet Bharara, who President Donald Trump fired when he refused to tender his resignation along with the rest of the Obama-era U.S. attorneys in March, was Wall Street’s top cop in his last position, and was reported to have been investigating Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price at the time of his ouster. Bharara has been outspoken in his criticism of Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey.
In an op-ed in the Washington Post published Sunday evening, Bharara recalled another instance of executive overreach into the realm of prosecutorial independence: the U.S. attorney firing scandal of 2006 and 2007, in which federal prosecutors were fired for what were later determined to be political reasons.
“When the actions became public, people suspected political interference and obstruction,” Bharara wrote. “Democrats were the most vocal, but some Republicans asked questions, too. The uproar intensified as it became clear that the initial explanations were mere pretext, and the White House couldn’t keep its story straight. Public confidence ebbed, and Congress began to investigate.”
“In response, the Senate launched a bipartisan (yes, bipartisan) investigation into those firings and the politicization of the Justice Department,” he added. The investigation led to the resignation of nearly a dozen Justice Department officials, including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
“For me, the past week has been deja vu all over again,” Bharara wrote, outlining three necessary steps to restore “faith in the rule of law”: a “truly bipartisan” investigation of Russian interference in the 2o16 election, an FBI director who is “apolitical and sensitive to the law-enforcement mission” and “an independent and uncompromised special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation.”
“Given the manner of Comey’s firing and the pretextual reasons proffered for it, there is no other way,” he wrote.