Attorney Preet Bharara, who was recently fired by Donald Trump
, rejected a call by the president two days before getting sacked, an American law enforcement official says.
The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York declined to take the call and instead contacted the Justice Department to ask for permission to talk to the president but he was denied, the official told Reuters in a Sunday report.
Bharara then called back the person facilitating the contact with Trump, asserting that he would not talk to him without permission from the Justice Department.
Why Bharara’s dismissal matters
The Justice Department, which is led by Trump-appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, called on Bharara and 45 other federal prosecutors, appointed by former President Barack Obama, to resign on Friday.
Bharara refused to follow suit as he had been specifically asked by Trump in November to remain Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor.
Despite that, upon his refusal, Bharara was fired.
“I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired. Being the US Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life,” he tweeted.
It is common for the Justice Department, which oversees federal prosecutors, to call for their resignation after a new administration gains power but Bharara’s case was particularly surprising.
The top federal prosecutor in Manhattan (pictured above) had apparently been appointed by three watchdog groups to investigate if the Trump Organization is benefiting from foreign governments.
“I do believe that something odd happened,” said Norm Eisen, a former White House ethics lawyer who leads one of the groups, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, in regard to Bharara’s dismissal.
“You don’t decide to keep 46 folks on, then suddenly demand their immediate exit, without some precipitating cause or causes.”
Accusations that Trump has received benefits from foreign governments heightened after the intelligence community concluded in a declassified report in January that Russian President Vladimir Putin helped the New York billionaire win the White House in the 2016 presidential election, an allegation dismissed both by Moscow and Trump.