Former high-profile US attorney Preet Bharara on Sunday described several unusual interactions he had with President Donald Trump following the 2016 election.
In an interview on ABC News’ “This Week,” Bharara said Trump called him during the presidential transition “just to shoot the breeze,” and described the calls as “a little bit uncomfortable” considering the US attorney’s mandate to remain impartial toward subjects within his jurisdiction, which included Trump.
Bharara, who earned a reputation as the “Sheriff of Wall Street,” said he suspected the president attempted to forge a relationship between the two men.
Bharara compared his interactions to those former FBI Director James Comey said he had in his Senate testimony on Thursday, in which Trump attempted to forge a closer bond between himself and Comey, who was investigating members of the Trump campaign at the time.
“They’re unusual phone calls and it sort of — when I’ve been reading the stories of how the president has been contacting Jim Comey over time, felt a little bit like deja vu,” Bharara said.
The former US attorney for the Southern District of New York also said Trump called him again the day before firing Bharara and 45 US attorneys, but Bharara said he felt that it would be inappropriate to return the call, and reported to the attorney general’s office that Trump was “trying to cultivate some kind of relationship.”
Bharara explained that he and the other US attorneys sought to have “some kind of arm’s length relationship” with the president in order to stay impartial in the event they investigated interests related to Trump. Bharara also pointed out that during his presidency, President Barack Obama never called him.
“I’m not saying that he was going to ask me about a case, although there was some evidence in the record now that after a period of time, given the Jim Comey testimony, there’s some evidence that Donald Trump didn’t think anything of asking a high level law enforcement official to take a particular action that he wanted for himself on a criminal case,” Bharara said.
He pointed out that Trump frequently blasted former President Bill Clinton for meeting with former Attorney General Loretta Lynch at an airport last year, which raised questions about Lynch’s ability to remain impartial in investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server:
“For the same reasons that Donald Trump emphasised how it looked when there was that tarmac incident, and you had a private conversation between someone who had an interest in an investigation and the person who was responsible for advancing or ending that investigation, it’s a very weird and peculiar thing for a one-on-one conversation without the attorney general, without warning between the president and me or any United States attorney who has been asked to investigate various things and is in a position hypothetically to investigate business interests and associates of the president.”
Trump’s decision to fire Bharara earlier this year raised eyebrows, as many critics pointed out that Trump originally asked the US attorney to stay on. Bharara was also investigating a number of high-profile cases at the time he was fired, including Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s stock trades.
Watch a clip of Bharara’s interview below:
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