One of the last things one would have expected to draw the outrage of his critics was President Trump’s decision to replace Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Similar actions have been routinely taken by new administrations, both Democrat and Republican.
Nor was the mainstream media’s seeming embrace of the criticism with screaming headlines any less surprising. After all, it is well-settled presidential protocol – rooted in the Constitution – that all U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president, who can retain or replace them for cause or no cause, as he wishes.
In fact, none of the objectors even hinted at a legal basis for Mr. Bharara’s seeming insistence that he stay on (certainly Mr. Bharara didn’t offer any). All they came up with were his touted successes and that no reasons had been given for his removal. Indeed, as the reality of presidential appointment powers started seeping through to the mainstream media, the criticism shifted from his being replaced to questions about the timing.
Why they initially seemed to challenge the president’s prerogative to have U.S, attorneys to his liking is necessarily the stuff of speculation, but the context certainly provides a perfectly plausible explanation. People like Senator Chuck Schumer and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would doubtless seize on anything that could conceivably discredit President Trump.
Emphasizing as they did Mr. Bharara’s popularity served as the perfect underpinning to their complaints about his being let go notwithstanding his reputation as a crusading town marshal. “If it’s not broke, why fix it?” became one rallying cry. “What investigations is the Trump administration trying to cover up?” became another.
As for Mr. Bharara himself, he is reputed to have designs on running for elective office in New York which has an overwhelmingly liberal, anti-Trump voter base. So it could hardly hurt him with New York voters to be seen as having been involved in some epic confrontation with President Trump.
And one savvy political observer suggested that his refusal to resign after being requested last Friday to do so by the president was simply part of an effort by Mr. Bharara to command maximum public attention by having the dispute float around until after the weekend since people pay relatively less attention to events in the news on Fridays.
Some are suggesting that Mr. Trump, locked in battle with the unrelenting Senator Schumer, was hardly of a mind to keep Mr. Bharara – Sen. Schumer’s most prominent protégé – in a position of almost unrestrained power, especially since Sen. Schumer had lobbied the president to keep him in office and Mr. Bharara would have thus owed his job to Sen. Schumer. This scenario would be a reasonable one, especially since Mr. Bharara’s apparent willingness to jettison the Constitution and join Sen. Schumer’s sideshow demonstrated that such a concern would be more than just conjecture. Except, of course, that the president asked all U. S. attorneys to resign.
In any case, we are well rid of Mr. Bharara. The U.S. Attorney’s office, with its largely arbitrary power over the future of millions of people, is no place for someone who likely put politics above principle.