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Dershowitz: Preet Bharara Deserved 'More Respect' From Trump

Image: Dershowitz: Preet Bharara Deserved 'More Respect' From Trump

By    |   Saturday, 11 Mar 2017 08:05 PM

Famed civil-rights attorney Alan Dershowitz said Saturday that President Donald Trump should have treated Preet Bharara "with more respect" in firing the U.S. attorney in New York after he refused to step down in a purging of federal prosecutors by the Justice Department.

"The president owed Preet Bharara a phone call," the Harvard Law School professor emeritus, told Ana Cabrera on CNN. "He had offered him a job, sent him out in front of television cameras.

"Then, to embarrass him by sending essentially a form letter saying, 'I want your resignation' — that was not the right way to handle this," Dershowitz said.

"Not only was he entitled to a phone call and an explanation, we, the American public, are entitled to an explanation."

Even if that means demanding that Congress "get to the bottom of it by calling people from the Justice Department and inquiring what the reason was," he said.

Bharara, 48, who was appointed in 2009 by President Barack Obama, said Saturday on Twitter that he had been fired by President Trump.

"I did not resign," he said in the tweet. "Moments ago I was fired."

Later in a statement, Bharara said: "Today, I was fired from my position as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

"Serving my country as U.S. Attorney here for the past seven years will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life, no matter what else I do or how long I live," he added. "One hallmark of justice is absolute independence, and that was my touchstone every day that I served."

He said his deputy, Joon Kim, will serve as his temporary replacement.

The Justice Department confirmed that Bharara was no longer in the post and declined to comment further.

Bharara, whose jurisdiction for the Southern District of New York included Manhattan, has handled many high-profile corruption and white-collar criminal cases.

He was among 46 Obama administration holdovers whom Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked to resign on Friday.

Like all of the nation's 93 U.S. attorneys, Bharara is a political appointee who is typically replaced when a new president takes office.

But in November, Bharara told reporters after meeting with the president-elect at Trump Tower in Manhattan that he had been asked to remain in the job.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman slammed the decision, saying it reflected further "chaos" within the Trump administration.

"President Trump's abrupt and unexplained decision to summarily remove over 40 U.S. attorneys has once again caused chaos in the federal government," he said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, praised Bharara as "an exemplary U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

"His relentless drive to root out public corruption, lock up terrorists, take on Wall Street, and stand up for what is right should serve as a model for all U.S. attorneys across the country," he said.

Schumer added that by seeking the immediate resignations, Trump was "interrupting ongoing cases and investigations and hindering the administration of justice."

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, called Bharara "a well-respected, tough prosecutor who the president promised could stay" and said the mass dismissals was "another reminder that the independence of the Justice Department is at risk under this administration.

"The president and attorney general demanded resignations immediately, not even allowing them to remain until successors are nominated and confirmed.

"The Senate will now have to carefully evaluate the president's selected replacements," Leahy said. "They will have a high bar to prove that they have the necessary courage and fidelity to the law."

Bharara, once lauded by Time magazine as the man who is "busting Wall Street" after successfully prosecuting dozens of insider traders, was investigating New York's two most-powerful lawmakers.

His office is prosecuting former associates of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a bribery case — and attorneys recently interviewed New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio as part of a probe into his fundraising.

The mayor's press secretary has said that de Blasio was cooperating and that he and his staff had acted appropriately.

Dershowitz told Cabrera that the office's work would continue because of its reputation for successfully prosecuting Democrats and Republicans.

"The good news is that there are some great people who are now eligible to be appointed," he said. "There are some nonpartisan people, there are people who have worked within the office for a long period of time.

"It's an office with a tremendous tradition.

"I've been opposed to them on many cases. I've been critical of some of their actions, but nobody can criticize the fact that it's been an office of high integrity.

"The position of U.S. attorney in the southern district has been filled by some of the great prosecutors in history," Dershowitz added, including former Republican New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

"This is an office that must be filled now, by a person who is a bipartisan, with great distinction and is acceptable to Republicans and Democrats alike and to the [New York] bar.

"I hope that we will see somebody appointed to that position will be able to replace this very distinguished attorney."

Former Attorney General Eric Holder, under whom Bharara served for six years, posted this tweet later Saturday:

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Famed civil-rights attorney Alan Dershowitz said Saturday that President Donald Trump should have treated Preet Bharara with more respect in firing the U.S. attorney in New York after he refused to step down in a purging of federal prosecutors by the Justice Department....
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Saturday, 11 Mar 2017 08:05 PM
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