Fired U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara cryptically suggests he was investigating Trump or his allies

Preet Bharara in Trump Tower
(Image credit: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump can (and did) make Preet Bharara vacate his office as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York — firing him on Saturday after Bharara refused to resign. But he can't make him go quietly.

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The Moreland Commission was set up by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in July 2013 to investigate corruption in state politics — then abruptly disbanded by Cuomo in March 2014 after, The New York Times reports, "Cuomo had hobbled its work, intervening when it focused on groups with ties to the governor or on issues that might reflect poorly on him." Bharara — who successfully prosecuted more than two dozen New York politicians of both parties for corruption, including the leaders of the state Assembly and state Senate — looked into Cuomo's handling of the Moreland Commission but ultimately concluded there was not enough evidence to prove a federal crime.

So Bharara's tweet on Sunday suggests that he was fired while he was investigating either Trump or his allies. On Sunday's This Week, House Government Oversight Committee ranking Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.) touched on that possibility:

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Without clarification from Bharara, there's only speculation as to what he meant. Bharara had a lot of enemies and critics: on Wall Street, in government, abroad — the leaders of Russia and Turkey had targeted him — and at Fox News, which Bharara was reportedly investigating, along with its former chief, Roger Ailes. The top name floated to replace Bharara is Marc Mukasey, a white-collar defense lawyer who once worked as a prosecutor in the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office; he's also the son of former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and a member of Ailes' legal team.

CNN's Jeffrey Toobin also noted on Saturday night that Bharara "has been involved in a lot of investigations that are at least peripherally related to Donald Trump," apparently including "some investigations that involve the Trump Organization and Russia." The ongoing investigations in Bharara's office are expected to continue with minimal interruption under career prosecutors, at least for now.

A White House aide criticized Bharara's refusal to resign, telling The Wall Street Journal that all 46 sacked U.S. attorneys were treated in the same way and "45 of the 46 behaved in a manner befitting the office," while "Preet wants everything to be about Preet." Reached for comment, Bharara responded: "It was my understanding that the president himself has said anonymous sources are not to be believed."

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.