Ousted Prosecutor Preet Bharara, Trump And Wall Street
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, on Friday, asked 46 U.S. attorneys to resign. They were the remaining vestiges of the previous administration's Justice Department. It's customary for a new president to appoint his own U.S. attorneys, but one of them was the powerful federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara. Mr. Bharara refused to resign, and yesterday, he was fired.
William Cohan is a financial writer who has profiled Mr. Bharara, and he joins me from his home. Welcome.
WILLIAM COHAN: Thank you for having me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So as we said, the request for these resignations is routine. So what is unusual here?
COHAN: Well, I think the unusual thing, Lulu, is that Mr. Trump - President-elect Trump - met with Preet Bharara in November at Trump Tower, and basically, according to Preet, who reported on the conversation, asked him to stay on as U.S. attorney in the Southern District.
He agreed to stay on, and I think that was what was the operative program going forward. And then this suddenly comes, seemingly out of the blue. Although, as you correctly said, there is a long custom of presidents appointing the U.S. attorneys all across the country, since they are political appointees.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do we know why Mr. Trump changed his mind?
COHAN: Well, there are now, of course, a lot of theories out there. First of all, it's his prerogative. This is what presidents do. But the, you know, current theories are that perhaps Preet had opened - he had just been asked by Norm Eisen, who's been a longtime critic of Mr. Trump's, to open investigation into activities around Trump Tower, which, of course, is in New York City in the Southern District of New York. There was suggestion that he was investigating some Russian spies.
But I really think, if you step back, this is a smart political move by Preet Bharara, perhaps the opening salvo for his own political career because, as you probably know, a lot of the U.S. attorneys in the Southern District of New York and prosecutors generally in the New York area go on to political careers.
COHAN: Rudy Giuliani, James Comey, Mary Jo White, for example. Well, Mr. Bharara made this very public. He tweeted that he was fired. Do you think that he was grandstanding here because he's looking at a possible future political career?
COHAN: Well, he is extremely charismatic, incredibly intelligent, great sense of humor, a great track record as a prosecutor - although not perfect. And I've often wondered when he was going to run for political office. I think this literally is a very smart political move. And Donald Trump gave him an opening, and he took it.
Don't forget, Preet Bharara is an appointee and a longtime friend and used to work for Chuck Schumer, the minority leader in the Senate who is basically leading the opposition against Donald Trump. Now, maybe there was an opportunity early on that looked like there was a rapprochement - there would be a way for Schumer and Trump to work together in November. Well, come March, that seems to have dissipated - And so bye-bye, Preet Bharara.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: We don't have much time left, but I just want to get your take on where you think he is headed, Mr. Bharara.
COHAN: Well, there's a Senate race in New York in 2018. There's also a governor's race in New York in 2018. So, wow, now it's March of 2017, perfect timing to sort of organize a campaign, if you ask me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So we might be hearing more from him, in your view.
COHAN: Definitely he's a very talented man and a very skilled politician.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: William Cohan is a financial writer and the author of "Why Wall Street Matters." Thank you.
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