Westchester resident Preet Bharara, the now former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York who forced a showdown with the administration of President Donald Trump after refusing to follow a late Friday afternoon order issued to 46 Obama-appointed attorneys to resign, said he has been fired.
"I did not resign," Bharara wrote in a tweet posted around 3 p.m. Saturday. "Moments ago, I was fired. Being the US Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life."
Bharara, the high-profile crusading attorney had been in the final stages of a City Hall corruption investigation centering on Mayor Bill de Blasio. Bharara is also reportedly investigating sexual harassment settlements and other employee claims at Fox News, which has provided largely positive coverage of Trump's campaign and presidency. Bharara was also overseeing a bribery case involving former associates of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The 48-year-old Bharara appeared blind-sided that Sessions' mass order included him because Bharara was personally approached and asked to retain his position by both Trump and Sessions during the pre-inaugural transition. Bharara had a November meeting with Trump at Trump Tower in Manhattan and Sessions had asked him to remain in his post, Bharara told reporters after the meeting.
"Serving my country as U.S. Attorney here for the past seven years will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life, no matter what else I do or how long I live," Bharara said in a statement issued shortly after his tweet. "One hallmark of justice is absolute independence, and that was my touchstone every day that I served."
Deputy U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim will serve as acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District, Bharara said.
The Justice Department confirmed Bharara was no longer U.S. attorney late Saturday, but did not comment further.
When notified Friday by acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente of Session's order, Bharara reportedly sought clarification as to whether the resignation order included him in light of the previous assurances from both Trump and Sessions, according to a report by the Washington Post.
Sessions' Friday directive has also fueled speculation that Bharara could run against de Blasio for mayor or against Cuomo for governor.
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the Trump Administration directive "had again caused chaos in the Federal government."
"Preet Bharara, like many of the U.S. attorneys dismissed this week, served with honor and distinction," Schneiderman said. "His integrity, tenacity and committing to rooting out wrongdoing -- whether in the boardroom, the halls of government, or anywhere else -- will be sorely missed."
Schneiderman added that the move has "led to questions about whether the Justice Department's vital and non-partisan work will continue under Attorney General Sessions, as it must."
Bharara, who became nationally known for prosecuting high-profile suspects from insider traders to diplomats to drug dealers, has targeted big names such as former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, J.P. Morgan Chase and the Big Money Bosses, when he charged 120 gang members with various offenses, ending a nine-year run in the Bronx.
“As was the case in prior transitions, many of the United States Attorneys nominated by the previous administration already have left the Department of Justice,” a Justice Department spokeswoman said in a statement. “The Attorney General has now asked the remaining 46 presidentially appointed U.S. Attorneys to tender their resignations in order to ensure a uniform transition.
“Until the new U.S. Attorneys are confirmed, the dedicated career prosecutors in our U.S. Attorney’s Offices will continue the great work of the Department in investigating, prosecuting, and deterring the most violent offenders.”
Obama nominated Bharara to become the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York on May 15, 2009. His nomination was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Aug. 7, 2009, and he was sworn in on Aug. 13, 2009.
The Southern District of New York includes New York City as well as the Hudson Valley.
Trump, who owns the $19.5 million Seven Springs estate in Bedford, also owns Trump National Golf Club Hudson Valley in Stormville and Trump National Westchester in Briarcliff Manor.
The Trump name also adorns Trump Tower At City Center in White Plains, Trump Plaza in New Rochelle, Trump Park Residences in Yorktown and the Donald J. Trump State Park on the Westchester/Putnam border.