U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara refuses to resign, is fired

By Eric DuVall   |   Updated March 11, 2017 at 5:22 PM
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March 11 (UPI) -- Preet Bharara, the powerful U.S. attorney in New York, said he was fired Saturday after he refused to resign along with 45 other U.S. attorneys appointed by the Obama administration, but asked to leave by President Donald Trump.

Bharara carved out a reputation as the no-nonsense sheriff of the frequently ethically compromised New York political machine after he aggressively pursued top Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature. Bharara secured corruption convictions against former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, and state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican. His office was also close to trial for a former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo accused of bid-rigging and bribery and was investigating the fundraising activities of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio at the time of his dismissal.

"I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired. Being the US Attorney in [the Southern District of New York] will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life," Bharara wrote on his personal Twitter feed on Saturday.

His dismissal caps a brief but remarkable showdown between a sitting U.S. attorney, the Justice Department and ultimately Trump himself.

Bharara and Trump met in person during the transition, when both men agreed Bharara should continue on as U.S. attorney, given the number of high-profile investigations still in the works. The Justice Department did not say what changed for Bharara, though it is not uncommon for political appointees in the Justice Department and elsewhere to leave office shortly after a new administration takes over.

In all, 46 U.S. attorneys appointed by former President Barack Obama were asked Friday by Justice Department officials to tender their immediate resignations and vacate their offices.

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