Southern District U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara at Trump Tower Wednesday (AP/Evan Vucci)
Seven years into the job, Preet Bharara is more than ready to extend his tenure as Southern District U.S. attorney.
Bharara emerged from a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump Wednesday saying he was asked to remain at his post and he agreed, a move that was welcomed by the white-collar bar in New York.
“The president-elect … presumably because he’s a New Yorker and is aware of [the] great work that our office has done over the past seven years, asked to meet with me and discuss whether or not I’m prepared to stay on as U.S. attorney to do the work as we have done it, without fear or favor, for the last seven years,” Bharara said outside of Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan.
Following what he called “a good meeting,” with Trump, Bharara said he accepted an offer that was also seconded by Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s nominee for attorney general.
The decision cements Bharara’s position as one of the top law enforcement figures in the United States. Two more years on the job will make him the longest-serving U.S. attorney in the history of the Southern District.
The decision to maintain the status quo provides continuity and stability on one of the largest U.S. attorney’s office’s, with 227 prosecutors, 167 of them in the Criminal Division.
Bharara’s tenure has been marked in part by a steady emphasis on white-collar crime where scores of convictions have been obtained. In the area of insider trading, Bharara has been forced to fight a rear-guard action as some convictions have been vacated, and some cases dismissed, as the Second Circuit has set a higher bar for prosecutors.
“I think the significant impact on the white-collar bar is that this may signal no change for the white-collar bar,” said John Kiernan, co-chair of the litigation department at Debevoise & Plimpton and current president of the New York City Bar Association.
Kiernan said Bharara “is an extremely talented U.S. attorney and it’s terrific news that the president-elect has focused on talent and not politicized such an important prosecutorial office.”
Bharara is a protege of New York Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat. Schumer, the Senate minority leader, released a statement Wednesday saying he had spoken with Trump last week and urged reappointment, calling Bharara “one of the best U.S. attorneys New York has ever seen.”
Bharara’s decision to accept the offer to remain also means steady work for attorneys who represent public figures charged with political corruption, where Bharara’s has been relentless.
More than on any other issue, Bharara has targeted the culture of self-dealing in New York state and New York City politics. He has given speeches decrying that decisions in Albany are made by “three men in a room”—the governor, the speaker of the Assembly and the Senate majority leader.
He has drawn criticism from some defense lawyers for his pronouncements on corruption cases and a caution from one judge on going too close to the line, but not crossing it, on his public statements.
Undeterred, Bharara has kept up a steady stream of public appearances, using humor and pointed rhetoric to try and whip up public anger and build demand for reform.
On Bharara’s watch, his prosecutors have won convictions against former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Nassau County Republican, and former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat.
In September, Bharara’s public corruption unit charged Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is a Democrat, and several others in an extortion and bribery scheme. Cuomo has not been accused of wrongdoing.
Bharara’s office is also currently probing campaign donations to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat.
Robert Giuffra, a Sullivan & Cromwell partner, white-collar and securities litigator and a well-known Republican, said the Southern District U.S. attorney’s office is known for its continuity from one administration to another. Bharara’s decision to remain makes it seamless.
“Preet Bharara is a prosecutor’s prosecutor—he’s highly respected by Republicans and Democrats alike and he’s shown he’s prepared to take the evidence wherever it leads, regardless of the politics involved,” Giuffra said. “The decision of the president-elect and Sen. Sessions to reappoint him reflects the fact they want to run a highly professional and apolitical justice department.”
“There were a lot of Republicans around the block who would have loved the job and Donald Trump was going to pick the best person regardless” Giuffra said.
Originally published on The New York Law Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.