Preet Bharara calls for special prosecutor in wake of Comey firing

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor
Preet Bharara speaks during an event in New York City last year. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

A U.S. attorney who was fired by President Trump is joining the call for an independent prosecutor in wake of the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

“For me, the past week has been deja vu all over again,” Preet Bharara wrote in an op-ed (“Are there still public servants who will say no to the president?”) published Monday in the Washington Post.

Bharara, who served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York from 2009 until his firing in March, says that “three obvious things must happen” in order to “restore faith in the rule of law.”

Last week, Trump sparked a political firestorm by firing Comey, who had been overseeing the FBI’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign had ties to Russia.

“First, we need a truly bipartisan investigation in Congress,” Bharara wrote. “That means no partisan nonsense — just a commitment to finding the facts, whatever they may be, proving (or disproving) Russian interference in our election and anything related.

“Second, the new FBI director must be apolitical and sensitive to the law-enforcement mission,” Bharara argued, “not someone with a long record of reflexive partisanship or commentary on the very investigative issues that will come before the bureau. Unfortunately, some of the candidates paraded by cameras this past weekend reality-show style fall into that category.”

The White House interviewed eight possible replacements for Comey over the weekend. Among them were acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, New York Court of Appeals Judge Michael Garcia and former Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher.

“More than ever the FBI needs a strong and stabilizing hand,” Bharara wrote, “which means somebody who has not spent most of his or her career pandering for votes, groveling for cash or putting party over principle.”

Finally, Bharara joined the growing chorus of voices calling for a special counselor to oversee the Russia investigation, considering the changing narrative offered by the White House to justify Comey’s ouster.

“Given the manner of Comey’s firing and the pretextual reasons proffered for it, there is no other way,” Bharara wrote. “My former colleague, now-Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, is a respected career prosecutor but has mostly deserved the doubts he generated with his peculiar press-release-style memo purporting to explain Comey’s sudden sacking. He can still fix it. The move would not only ensure the independence of the investigation, but also provide evidence of Rosenstein’s own independence.”

According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday, 78 percent of Americans said they would prefer the Russia investigation be led by an independent prosecutor or independent commission.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Sunday that Democrats would consider refusing to vote on a new FBI director until a special prosecutor is named.

Although most Democrats on Capitol Hill have called for a special prosecutor, just 11 Republican members — three senators and eight House members — have done so, according to the Washington Post.

“History will judge this moment,” Bharara added. “It’s not too late to get it right, and justice demands it.”

In his op-ed, Bharara referenced a 2007 report by the Justice Department’s inspector general concluding that aides to former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales broke Civil Service laws in applying “a conservative ideological litmus test” to hiring decisions.

“The point of this is to be watchful & vigilant,” Bhahara tweeted, “to make sure political hiring at DOJ remains a thing of the past.”

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