New York: India-born former top federal prosecutor Preet Bharara, who received a phone call from US President Donald Trump just two days before he was fired, said he “was done with” the American leader and did him a favour by not returning his call.
“I was doing everyone a favour by not returning the call. I was doing the President a favour by not returning the call,” Manhattan’s former prosecutor said during a conversation last week with New York University’s School of Law Dean Trevor Morrison here.
Two days before he was fired, 48-year-old Bharara had got a phone call from Trump’s office asking him to call the President back. Bharara did not return the call. Asked if he had considered returning that call, Bharara said there are lots of regulations regarding how contacts should be made between the White House and the Justice Department.
“This is a man who campaigned day after day after day on the argument that (former President) Bill Clinton met with the sitting Attorney General during the pendency of an investigation,” Bharara said, referring to the controversial meeting in Phoenix between Clinton and Loretta Lynch.
Trump had repeatedly said during the campaign trail that he did not believe that talks about the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server had not come up during that meeting between her husband and Lynch and that the two had just talked about their grandchildren and other frivolous things.
Bharara said any interaction between him and Trump could have raised doubts in people’s minds over any future investigation his office would have undertaken. “Who on earth was going to believe that the President of the US in a remarkable and unprecedented fashion is cultivating a relationship with the US Attorney in Manhattan, whose jurisdiction includes various things, only to shoot the breeze? Who is going to believe that,” said Bharara.
“I saved a lot of people a lot of grief (by not returning the call). At that point, I was kind of done with him (Trump) so I didn’t return the call,” Bharara said.
Referring to him being unceremoniously fired, Bharara recalled the meeting held with much “fanfare” between him and then president-elect Trump in Trump Towers in Manhattan shortly after the presidential elections. He said Trump had then explicitly asked him to stay on for another term.
Bharara also stressed the independence of the US Attorney’s Offices. “The mass of what goes on in any US Attorney’s Office is not political and doesn’t become political, no matter who the president is,” Bharara said.
“My job was not to serve the president, whether that’s Barack Obama or Donald Trump or anyone else. It was to serve the public, and to serve the interests of justice,” he added.