Dear Commons Community,
This past weekend, the news media was closely following Preet Bharara’s firing as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern New York District. There were many questions regarding his dismissal. The New York Times (see below) has a good review of his case in an editorial this morning. The whole affair is troubling especially whether his firing had anything to do with Donald Trump’s relationship to Rupert Murdoch and Fox News which the Times refers to as the “propaganda arm of the White House”.
New York magazine went further on the Murdoch connection referring to possible pending indictments against Fox News personnel that Bharara was pursuing and reported yesterday:
“Given that Fox News is Murdoch’s most profitable division, the prospect of indictments is a serious problem. “They’re really worried,” one source close to the network said. Another insider said that Fox News executives considered the investigation “political” because Bharara had been appointed by Barack Obama. Which is why, for Murdoch, it must be a relief that Bharara’s replacement could be an ally. According to the Times, Trump’s short list to replace Bharara includes Marc Mukasey — who just happens to be former Fox News chief Roger Ailes’s personal lawyer.”
New York Times
Preet Bharara: A Prosecutor Who Knew How to Drain the Swamp!
The Editorial Board
March 13, 2017
Most Americans had never heard of Preet Bharara, Manhattan’s federal prosecutor, before he briefly took center stage in the drama over the Trump administration’s Friday order demanding the resignations of 46 United States attorneys.
Mr. Bharara alone refused to resign. He was fired on Saturday, and immediately cast as either a martyr for justice or a sanctimonious self-promoter, depending on one’s partisan inclinations. But New Yorkers, who have had a front-row seat to his work over the last seven years, know him for his efforts to drain one of the swampiest states in the country of its rampant public corruption.
Appointed in 2009 by President Barack Obama, Mr. Bharara quickly went after New York’s rancid political culture, where politicians of both parties have long treated anti-graft laws like suggestions and ethics rules like Play-Doh.
Mr. Bharara won convictions of more than a dozen lawmakers, culminating in 2015, when he brought down two of the state’s three most powerful politicians: Sheldon Silver, the Democratic former Assembly speaker, and Dean Skelos, the Republican former Senate majority leader. Both men have appealed their convictions, which included charges of bribery, extortion and money laundering.
Mr. Bharara also tangled repeatedly with the other member of that entrenched trio, New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo. He investigated Mr. Cuomo’s suspicious disbanding in 2014 of the Moreland Commission, an anticorruption panel that Mr. Cuomo had established a year earlier to address the epidemic of self-dealing in state politics. Mr. Bharara eventually decided there was not enough evidence to charge the governor with interfering in the commission’s work, but at the time of his firing, Mr. Bharara’s office was prosecuting two of Mr. Cuomo’s former advisers in a bribery and bid-rigging scandal.
Mr. Bharara was an equal-opportunity prosecutor. One of the first cases as United States attorney for the Southern District of New York involved bank-fraud charges against a top Democratic donor, Hassan Nemazee, who had ties to Senator Chuck Schumer, for whom Mr. Bharara had worked as chief counsel and who had urged Mr. Obama to hire him.
It’s standard practice for United States attorneys to be replaced when a new administration takes office — roughly half of those appointed by President Obama had resigned before last Friday — but Mr. Trump, as president-elect, had personally asked Mr. Bharara to stay on during a meeting at Trump Tower in November. So why fire him now?
It has been reported that Mr. Bharara’s office is investigating whether Fox News, essentially the propaganda arm of the White House, failed to properly alert its shareholders about settlements with employees who accused the channel’s former boss, Roger Ailes, of sexual harassment.
It may be a while before the full story comes out, or before the Southern District of New York sees another prosecutor as cleareyed about rooting out public corruption. In the meantime, Mr. Bharara deserves credit for leaving New York a little cleaner than he found it. “We are not trying to criminalize ordinary politics,” he said in a 2015 speech. “Just try not to steal our money.”