Fired U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said on Sunday that before being fired by Donald Trump, the president attempted to “cultivate” a relationship with him.
Bharara told ABC’s This Week host George Stephanopoulos that after the election, Trump invited him to Trump Tower and asked him to remain U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. But after that meeting, Trump called Bharara several times in a manner that seemed similar to interactions fired FBI director James Comey testified about on Thursday.
“They were very unusual phone calls,” Bharara said. “I’ve been reading the stories of how the president has been contacting Jim Comey over time, and it felt a little bit like déjà vu.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bharara, who was nominated to become U.S. Attorney by President Barack Obama in 2009 and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate, said Trump called him three times in as many months, twice following the election while Trump was president-elect and once while he was president.
“The number of times President Obama called me in seven and a half years is zero,” Bharara said. “The number of times I would have expected to be called by the president of the United States would be zero because there has to be some kind-of arms length relationship there given the jurisdiction that some people have.”
Bharara said during the first two calls, while he was only president-elect, Trump appeared to just want to “shoot the breeze,” asking him how he was doing and wondering if he was OK. Bharara said he didn’t say much back to Trump.
“It was similar to what James Comey testified to in respect to a call he got when he was getting on a helicopter,” Bharara noted. “It was a little uncomfortable.”
Bharara says he received a third call from Trump, then president, shortly after the inauguration. He told Stephanopoulos he deliberated with his staff and made the decision not to call him back, deeming any interaction with Trump “inappropriate.” 22 hours later, Bharara was asked to resign, and was ultimately fired, along with 45 other U.S. attorneys across the country.
“It’s a very weird and peculiar thing for a one-on-one conversation without the attorney general, without warning, between the president and me or any U.S. attorney who has been asked to investigate various things and who is in a position hypothetically – to investigate business interested and associates of the president,” Bharara said.
“To this day I have no idea why I was fired,” Bharara added.
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) June 11, 2017
The Justice Department said in a statement back in March that all remaining U.S. attorneys nominated by the previous administration, including Bharara, were asked to resign “in order to ensure a uniform transition.” President Obama also replaced holdover U.S. attorneys when he was elected, but the changes happened over a series of months, and were followed by nominees. So far, President Trump has announced just one nominee.
Bharara also told Stephanopoulos he thinks “there’s absolutely evidence to begin a case” against President Trump for obstruction of justice.
“I think it’s very important for all sorts of armchair speculators in the law to be clear that no one knows right now whether there’s a provable case of obstruction,” Bharara said, adding, “It’s also true, I think, from based on what I see as a third party and out of government, that there’s no basis to say there’s no obstruction.”
— ABC News (@ABC) June 11, 2017