Former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara—who Donald Trump fired last month after refusing the president’s request he quit—broke his silence about the dramatic ouster, telling the New York Times he remains confused about what led to his removal from office.
Bharara told the Times Trump’s decision was “a direct example of the kind of uncertain helter-skelter incompetence, when it comes to personnel decisions and executive actions, that was in people’s minds when this out-of-the-blue call for everyone’s resignation letter came.”
He had previously been asked by Trump to remain on as a U.S. attorney. According to Bharara, he still doesn’t know what changes the president’s mind.
“Literally, no one was giving us an answer to that question,” Bharara said.
The former U.S. attorney also detailed two separate phone calls between himself and Trump before he took office. According to the Times, in November, when he asked Bharara to stay on, then president-elect Trump asked him to jot down his phone numbers—an unusual request, but one Bharara complied with. Trump also instructed the U.S. attorney to tell the press staked out at Trump Tower about his decision to work with the incoming administration.
About two weeks later, Trump called Bharara; after consulting with his aides, they reached the consensus that there was no ethical problem with retuning the call, as Trump was not yet president. Bharara said Trump was just “checking in.”
On Jan. 18—two days before his inauguration—Trump called again. According to the Times, that call was also “brief and innocuous.” But on Mar. 9, weeks after Trump’s inauguration, he called again. Bharara did not call the president back.
“I do not think it is wise for a sitting president to try cultivating a personal telephonic relationship with a sitting U.S. attorney, especially one with a certain jurisdiction,” Bharara said, in reference to his jurisdiction over Trump Tower.
The following day, Dana Boente, who was made acting deputy attorney general after the public firing of Sally Yates, called Bharara to ask for his resignation. He declined, and was later fired by the president.