Saturday, March 11, 2017

CONYERS To Ask For Full Accounting Of Pending U.S. Attorney DOJ Investigations Involving Trump Administration & Related Entities


On March 10, 2017, the Trump Justice Department asked every sitting U.S. Attorney for their resignation.  Today, the Trump Administration fired Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the  Southern  District of New York.  Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee issued the following statement:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“I am deeply disturbed by the Trump Administration's decision to terminate all sitting U.S. Attorneys.  The Trump Administration--including former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and others--has been enveloped by myriad conflicts of interest, and allegations of improper if not unlawful contacts involving the Russian government.  The Attorney General himself is enmeshed in scandal resulting from his own inaccurate testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“It is particularly problematic that the Administration would fire Mr. Bharara, the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, who President Trump himself had previously asked to continue in his position--particularly given that Mr. Bharara could be reviewing a range of potential improper activity emanating from Trump Tower and the Trump Campaign, as well as entities with financial ties to the President or the Trump Organization.  Similarly, every Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee recently asked Channing Phillips, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, to investigate whether Attorney General Sessions’ misstatements before the Senate Judiciary Committee may have constituted the federal crimes of lying to Congress or perjury.

“I am asking the Trump Justice Department to provide the House Judiciary Committee with a summary of any and all pending investigations involving members of the Trump Administration, the Trump Transition, the Trump Campaign, and the Trump Organization,  so that we can understand the full implications of this weekend’s firings.”

Preet Bharara Is Fired After Refusing to Step Down as U.S. Attorney 


Preet Bharara, the Manhattan federal prosecutor who was asked by President Trump to remain in his post shortly after the election, was fired on Saturday after he refused an order to submit his resignation.

Mr. Bharara’s dismissal capped a brief but highly unusual showdown in which a political appointee installed by Mr. Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, declined an order to submit a resignation.

He told the world what had happened on Twitter.

“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,” Mr. Bharara wrote on his personal feed, which he set up in the past two weeks.

Mr. Bharara was among 46 holdover Obama appointees who were called by the acting deputy attorney general on Friday and told to immediately submit their resignations and plan to clear out of their offices.

But Mr. Bharara, who was called to Trump Tower for a meeting with the incoming president in late November, declined to do so.

Mr. Bharara’s office is overseeing a pending case against former close aides and associates of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and an inquiry into people close to Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City, who has been a target of Mr. Trump’s ire as he has positioned himself as a vocal opponent of the president’s on the left.

The announcement that Mr. Bharara had been told to resign created feelings of whiplash inside his office, according to two people familiar with the views of current prosecutors. One of the people described an oddly subdued reaction mixed with anxiety as the events unfolded. “You have a sense of how it’s going to end and it’s not going to end well,” this person said.

In November, Mr. Bharara met at Trump Tower with the president-elect and several of his advisers, including Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, according to two people briefed on that discussion who requested anonymity to describe a private meeting with Mr. Trump.

At the meeting, according to those briefed, Mr. Trump urged Mr. Bharara to remain in the job. Mr. Bharara said after the meeting, “I agreed to stay on.”

Mr. Bharara’s dismissal came about a year into his office’s investigation of Mr. de Blasio’s campaign fund-raising, an inquiry that is examining whether the mayor or his aides traded beneficial acts for political donations. And Mr. Bharara leaves his post at a sensitive juncture: Mr. de Blasio was interviewed recently by prosecutors who appeared to be in the final stages of determining whether to seek charges in the matter.

There is little precedent for Mr. Bharara’s refusal to resign; President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush also dismissed holdover political appointees in the Justice Department.

But the hasty nature of the dismissals, combined with Mr. Trump’s previous request of Mr. Bharara that he stay on, made this an unusual episode.

It was unclear how many of the 46 holdovers had submitted resignations. By way of contrast, Mr. Bharara’s colleague Robert L. Capers, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, announced his resignation on Friday afternoon.

The White House has said little about the timing of the mass push for resignations, other than insisting it was not a response to a call for a purge that Mr. Trump saw on Fox News, where one host, Sean Hannity, urged the president to clean house at the Justice Department.

Two White House officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the promise to keep Mr. Bharara on was a product of a chaotic transition process and Mr. Trump’s desire at the time to try to work with Senator Chuck Schumer, with whom Mr. Bharara is close. The relationship between Mr. Trump and Mr. Schumer, the Senate minority leader, has since soured.

Phil Singer, a former aide to Mr. Schumer and a Democratic strategist, called it “absurd” to suggest that Mr. Bharara’s firing was meant to punish Mr. Schumer.

But Mr. Trump has felt under siege over leaks springing from the vast federal bureaucracy he now oversees, and White House officials said that removing Mr. Bharara and the others was meant as a first step toward purging Obama appointees.

Before Mr. Bharara was fired on Saturday, one of New York’s top elected Republicans expressed support for him.

“Good for Preet, he is doing the job he was appointed to do!” Assemblyman Brian M. Kolb, the State Assembly minority leader, wrote on Twitter.

Assemblyman Steven F. McLaughlin, a Republican who was fond of calling for “draining the swamp” in Albany long before Mr. Trump embraced that expression, had urged Mr. Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reconsider on Friday.

“Big mistake,” he wrote on Twitter.

The Southern District of New York, which Mr. Bharara has overseen since 2009, encompasses Manhattan, Mr. Trump’s home before he was elected president, as well as the Bronx, Westchester, and other counties north of New York City.

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