US attorney Preet Bharara fired after refusing to step down

Vasudevan Sridharan

Preet Bharara, one of the most prominent high-profile US attorneys, said that he has been fired after refusing to step down. The Manhattan prosecutor was among the 46 US attorneys who were asked to leave immediately by President Donald Trump's administration.

Bharara, a New York federal prosecutor, was initially asked to retain his post by Trump when the pair held a meeting in 2016. However, his name was included in the list of 46 attorneys, all holdovers from the Obama administration, who were asked to resign through an order from attorney general Jeff Sessions and clear out their offices.

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In a tweet, Bharara wrote: "I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired. Being the US Attorney in SDNY [South District New York] will forever be the greatest honour of my professional life." Bharara has taken on Democratic and Republican lawmakers in the past and came into the limelight as he started pursuing cases against Wall Street bankers.

Although the incoming presidents are known to replace key appointees with their own favourites, the sweeping nature of the latest justice department's request has raised many eyebrows. The White House has not yet released any statement on the matter. There are protocols in the US that bar presidents from making direct contact with federal prosecutors.

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Shortly after his tweets, Bharara released a statement that read: "Today, I was fired from my position as US attorney for the Southern District of New York. Serving my country as US attorney here for the past seven years will forever be the greatest honour of my professional life, no matter what else I do or how long I live."

According to Washington Post, two sources who close to the Trump administration said that Stephen Bannon, the president's chief strategist, and Sessions, wanted to make sure that the administration asserts control when it comes to federal prosecutors.

A statement released by the New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman read: "President Trump's abrupt and unexplained decision to summarily remove over 40 US attorneys has once again caused chaos in the federal government. Preet Bharara, like many of the US attorneys dismissed this week, served with honour and distinction."

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