The South Asian Times

20 November 2018 11:26 AM

Firing Preet wounds US greatness & sovereignty

By Ravi Batra

Every president has the right to pick his team, and that includes his law enforcement team, including prosecutors and their so important prosecutorial discretion. Critically, that means that prosecutorial discretion belongs to the president.

There are two unique features about the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. First, SDNY is fondly referred to as the Sovereign District of New York as it was created long before the US Department of Justice. Second, its occupants have become part of American folklore. To name just a recent few, the legendary Robert M. Morgenthau, Rudy Giuliani, MaryJo White, James Comey, Michael Garcia, and the legendary Preet Bharara - who seems to many to be the reincarnation of Elliot Ness. 

What is unique about Preet’s termination are two things: then-president-elect Trump on November 30 offered to him to remain as his United States Attorney as part of the Trump presidency, and Preet readily accepted that offer, given his pending significant and meaningful prosecutions and investigations. And because he ran his office independent from politics, so it did not matter if the appointing president was a Democrat or Republican. So, this belated demand for resignation, refusal to resign and subsequent termination is a breach of the November 30 presidential offer and Preet's acceptance. Which raises the troubling question of "why?"

The power of the president to fire his United States attorneys, each of whom are a presidential appointment, is a near absolute power. For example, if there was a pending investigation that affected members of the presidential cabinet, it could be an obstruction of justice for the President to fire the investigating or prosecuting prosecutor. Given President Trump's most recent charge of being wiretapped during the Obama presidency, and November 30, 2016 was during the Obama presidency, this termination of Preet Bharara is most disturbing, and most unsettling as it could be cloaking an unconstitutional breach between the executive and judicial branches of government by quashing pending investigations into Russian activities, and substantial questions about potential collusion by US citizens on American soil, or as the recent press reports confirmed that both the English and the Dutch intelligence agencies informed US government that there are meetings in Europe between Russian operatives and people claiming to speak for the Trump campaign.

Well, now, Attorney General Jeff Sessions will have to carry the heavy burden of reassuring the American public that the department of justice meets the high standard set by multiple occupants of the Southern District of New York: independent investigations and prosecutions without fear or favor, and always free of political interference or consideration. American sovereignty and American greatness rests in the balance from this unexpected and unkind cut that may let wrongdoers get away from facing justice - from New York City Hall to Albany to Washington.

Update: 21 March, 2017