by Mark Hosenball · March 11, 2017
WASHINGTON U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of New York is not resigning from his post despite being asked to do so by the Justice Department, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters on Saturday, potentially setting up a showdown between President Donald Trump and one of the country’s top federal prosecutors.
Bharara, who has handled a string of high-profile corruption and white-collar criminal cases, remains on the job one day after the Justice Department asked him and 45 other federal prosecutors left over from the Obama administration to resign, the source said.
Bharara’s decision to stay in his post could force the Trump Administration to fire a prosecutor who has won criminal cases against defendants like the Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad. Bharara, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama in 2009, also won a $1.8 billion insider-trading settlement against SAC Capital Advisors, the largest in history, forcing the hedge fund to shut down.
Like all of the nation’s 93 U.S. attorneys, Bharara is a political appointee who is typically replaced when a new president takes office.
The Justice Department said Friday that many Obama-appointed nominees have already left office and those who remain were asked to resign.
Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment about Bharara’s status.
Bharara told reporters in November that Trump had asked him to stay on, and he is unsure whether the new request to submit his resignation supersedes that, the source told Reuters.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s decision to replace so many sitting attorneys at once has raised questions about whether that would hinder the Trump administration’s ability to enforce the nation’s laws. Career attorneys will carry on that work until new U.S. attorneys are put in place, the Justice Department said.
Bharara’s Manhattan office handles some of the most critical business and criminal cases passing through the federal judicial system. He has been overseeing a probe into New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fundraising.
Trump has asked two of the prosecutors, Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein to stay on as the Senate considers his nomination to serve as the No. 2 Justice Department official, according to the Justice Department. He has also asked Virginia U.S. Attorney Dana Boente, who is temporarily serving in that position, to remain.
A White House spokesman said he did not know whether other U.S. attorneys would be asked to remain in office.