The Trump administration on Saturday fired US attorney Preet Bharara after he refused to step down.
Bharara claimed to have been asked by Trump in November 2016 to continue as acting state attorney for the Southern District of Manhattan, according to Reuters.
The New York attorney set an impressive record during his stint ranging from insider-trading settlements from Wall Street to convictions in high-profile terrorism, criminal and corruption charges. According to a Reuters report, “he won a $1.8 billion insider-trading settlement against SAC Capital Advisors, the largest in history, which forced the hedge fund to shut down, and he forced JPMorgan Chase to pay $1.7 billion to settle charges related to its role in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme”.
Despite the success rate of Obama-appointed attorney, Bharara’s termination may be related to the sexual harassment investigation he was leading against Fox News executives.
A report in the New York Magazine cites sources as saying that Bharara was “looking at a number of potential crimes, including whether Fox News executives broke laws by allegedly obtaining journalists’ phone records or committed mail and wire fraud by hiding financial settlements paid to women who accused Roger Ailes of sexual harassment.”Sources allegedly told the magazine that prosecutors were offering immunity to witness to encourage them to testify before a federal grand jury.
The newspaper further speculated that Sean Hannity’s comments on Fox News on Thursday advising US President Trump to ‘purge’ the Justice Department of officials who were selected by former president Obama, may have influenced the decision to fire Bharara.
Adding fuel to the fire, the New York attorney took to Twitter to give rise to the theory when he referenced the Moreland Commission to his own situation.
“By the way, now I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like,” he tweeted.
The Moreland Commission was set up by incumbent New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to investigate corruption in the state but was disbanded after it began investigating organisations with ties to the governor. Bharara also took up those investigations.
In what seems like a series of coincidences that back the Fox News connections, the New York Times claimed in a report on March 10 that one of the top names to replace Bharara is that of former Southern District prosecutor Marc Mukasey.
Mukasey is currently a lawyer at the Greenberg Trauig firm in New York – the same law firm that employs Trump’s close aide and former mayor of New York Rudy Giulani. Speaking to Vanity Fair, Mukasey described his relationship with Roger Ailes – former chairman and CEO of Fox News, as that of a personal and professional nature. “Rudy and I provided personal, private legal counsel to Roger, whom we’ve known for years. Our conversations about the matter are private,” he told the magazine.
In circumstances as such, it is pertinent to note the conflict of interest that shall arise if Mukasey exceeds to the US attorney office. In simple terms: the Fox News probe will then be prosecuted under a state attorney that shares history with the defendants.
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