Two days before US Attorney Preet Bharara was fired, President Donald Trump tried to call the high-profile New York prosecutor in what a White House official said was an effort to “thank him for his service and to wish him good luck.”
But a US law enforcement official said Bharara declined to take the call, placed on Thursday, saying he did not want to talk to the president without the approval of his superiors.
Bharara said on Saturday he had been fired after he defied a request to resign. The move was a surprise because Bharara had told reporters in November that Trump had asked him to remain in the job.
As the chief federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, which includes Manhattan, Bharara oversaw several notable corruption and white-collar criminal cases, as well as prosecutions of terrorism suspects.
He was one of 46 Obama administration holdovers who were asked to resign by the Justice Department on Friday.
Although US attorneys are political appointees, and the request from Trump’s Justice Department is part of a routine process, the move came as a surprise. Not every new administration replaces all US attorneys at once.
The White House declined to comment further on the resignations.
The office in the southern district of New York handles some of the most critical business and criminal cases that pass through the federal judicial system. Bharara had been overseeing a probe into New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fundraising.
Bharara said his deputy, Joon Kim, would serve as his temporary replacement.