Monday, March 13, 2017


Preet Bharara is making a career of being one of 46 U.S. attorneys who was routinely asked to resign by President Trump, who, like his predecessors in the White House, wanted to install his own lawyers in these jobs. Mr. Bharara, who was appointed by Barack Obama for U.S. attorney in New York City, thinks life handed him a lemon and he dreams of making lemonade.

Actually, life handed him a squash, or maybe it was an eggplant, and he, like a lot of Americans, now has to find a job. He’s an experienced trial lawyer of good reputation, so he’s not likely to wind up in a Gotham soup kitchen. He dreams of being governor of New York, and maybe he can be, because being “fired” by Donald Trump is a good career move in Manhattan, where the Democratic pout over losing the election runs deep and shows little evidence of subsiding.

Mr. Bharara has been a pain in the neck of both Democrats and Republicans. He has had Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his sights for years but so far he has obtained not even an indictment. Governors are more difficult to indict than the famous ham sandwich, which is said to be so vulnerable to a prosecutor’s ambitions. But his pursuit of Gov. Cuomo and his misdeeds, if any, has led to the inevitable speculation that Mr. Cuomo has the job he wants.

This is the talk that Mr. Bharara might, sooner than later, be a candidate for governor against a scandal-tainted incumbent about whom he knows more than anyone else.

Mr. Bharara invented the story that he was “fired,” because that’s more heroic than being just one of 46 lawyers suddenly put on the loose to look for a client. “Fake news,” some people might call it.

A U.S. attorney is one of 96 federal prosecutors in the country, picked by the president with the assistance of the U.S. Justice Department and confirmed by the United States Senate. He serves a fixed term of office — that is, it’s fixed until a president unfixes it. By tradition U.S. attorneys were once asked to serve out their terms, but that changed when Bill Clinton, as a new president, wanted to cashier Chuck Banks, the U.S. attorney in Little Rock whom Bubba suspected of collecting evidence about the Whitewater scandal that would grow into high crimes and misdemeanors. He instructed Janet Reno, his attorney general, to fire everybody, just in case.

Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama largely, but not altogether, reverted to previous practice. President Trump, acting through Attorney General Jeff Sessions — who was himself a former U.S. attorney fired by Bill Clinton — asked for resignations from Mr. Bharara and the 45 other U.S. attorneys appointed by Barack Obama.

A letter of resignation may be accepted by a president, or it may be rejected, depending on what serves a president’s pleasure. Mr. Bharara’s letter of resignation might have been rejected if he had submitted one, but he obviously thought being sacked for insubordination would better serve his ambitions.

He played the game, and played the press, with considerable skill. He might owe the Donald a little gratitude.

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