US Attorney Preet Bharara announced Saturday that he had been fired after refusing to offer his resignation earlier in the day.
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.
— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) March 11, 2017
This was confirmed moments later by Jake Tapper:
Acting deputy Attorney General Dana Boente just called US Attorney Preet Bharara and told him President Trump was firing him.
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) March 11, 2017
Yesterday the Department of Justice announced that AG Jeff Sessions was requesting the resignation of the 46 remaining Obama-appointed US Attorneys. One of those was Bharara, despite the fact that Trump had personally told him last year that he could stay on. Earlier this morning there were tweets from several reporters indicating that Bharara had decided he would not offer his resignation:
HOLDOVER: Bharara is not submitting his resignation, according to several ppl briefed – WH not responding to what they'll do next.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) March 11, 2017
The Daily Beast reports on some of the cases Bharara has been working on and his decision Friday night to push back on the resignation request:
Bharara—whose office is in the end stages of an investigation of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, about to begin the trials of two close allies of Governor Andrew Cuomo, and also appears to be investigating how Fox News structured settlements of sexual harassment and other claims brought by its employees—met with Donald Trump shortly after the election and was told that he would stay. Just this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions assured him in a phone conversation that he’d remain atop the Southern District, according to the federal law enforcement official.
Friday evening, the law enforcement official told The Daily Beast, Bharara told his section chiefs that he’d yet to submit the requested letter and might instead challenge Sessions to fire him. Evidently, the White House did not back down.
Bharara seems to split people into two camps. There are those that admire him as someone who doesn’t play favorites, including our own Jazz Shaw. Then there are those who seem him as a grandstanding figure who loves to see himself on television a bit too much.
Based on the earlier statements by Sessions and Trump that he could stay on, a private appeal to the resignation request would make sense. But I don’t see the point of going public with your refusal except as a way to make a media splash. Why would Bharara do that? Even before he was fired, the NY Daily News was speculating his resignation could free him up to run for office in New York:
De Blasio is up for reelection in November. Cuomo in 2018.
Bharara has long denied an interest in running for public office, but few in New York’s political circles actually believe that.
Once you dare Trump to fire you, he really has little choice but to follow through. Maybe Bharara decided that going out in a blaze of resistance glory would be better for his future than simply complying with the resignation request like everyone else.