Southern District U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is out of a job.
Bharara, who was told he would keep his position during a meeting with the President-elect at Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan in November, announced via his personal Twitter account that he was fired just before 3 p.m. Saturday. “I did not resign,” he said in the tweet. “Moments ago, I was fired. Being the US Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life.”
Bharara was one of 46 Obama-era holdover U.S. Attorneys asked to resign Friday by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as the President exercised his prerogative to select the chief law enforcement officers in the federal districts. It was unclear Friday if Bharara would cooperate with the request to resign, or if his resignation would be accepted by Sessions.
Also on the resignation list is Eastern District U.S. Attorney Robert Capers.
Capers, who will be temporarily replaced by Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Rhode, issued a statement Friday.
“It has been my greatest honor to serve my country, New York City and the people of this district for almost 14 years, with the last 17 months serving as United States Attorney,” Capers said.
Bharara became a national celebrity in part for his high-profile crackdown on insider trading and, more locally, his zealous pursuit of political corruption in Albany, where his prosecutors brought down both the Republican Majority Leader of the Senate, Dean Skelos, and the Democratic Speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, as well as several other officials. Bharara made several high-profile speeches denouncing the “culture of corruption” in the state capital.
Bharara was confirmed for the job in August of 2009. A former chief counsel to U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, (D-N.Y.), he headed the Senate Judiciary Committee investigation into whether the firings of U.S. attorneys in several districts by the Bush administration were politically motivated.
After meeting with Trump in November, Bharara emerged to say “We had a good meeting. I said I would absolutely consider staying on. I agreed to stay on.” Bharara said he had a similar confirmation with soon-to-be Attorney General Jeff Sessions, “so I expect I will be continuing.”
Richard Hartunian, the Northern District U.S. Attorney, is an Obama appointee who took over in February 2010.
An early Trump supporter in New York, Onondaga County Republican Chairman Tom Dadey, has been helping vet appointees to replace Hartunian and has interviewed two assistant U.S. attorneys, Grant Jaquith and Ransom Reynolds, for the post along with Robert Antonaccci, Onondaga County comptroller. Dadey has indicated to the Syracuse Post-Standard that he favors Antonacci.
In New York’s Western District, James Kennedy Jr. has been interim U.S. attorney since Oct. 31.
The previous U.S. Attorney, William Hocul Jr., the husband of Lt. Gov. Kathy Hocul, resigned in October and is now general counsel to the gaming, sports and entertainment group Delaware North.
Sources have told the Buffalo News that among the favorites as Kennedy’s successor are Buffalo attorney and Clarence Town Court Justice Michael Powers and Jeremy Colby, a former Erie County attorney and Lancaster Town Court justice.
Copyright New York Law Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.