Last week, Donald Trump shocked the political world by abruptly removing all U.S. Attorneys appointed by the Obama Administration. In particular, the firing of Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara raised serious questions. No one knew why Bharara was fired in such a rush. Well, now we know.
Bharara was overseeing an investigation into stock trades made by the president’s health secretary, according to an official familiar with the office, the Huffington Post reported Friday.
Tom Price, head of the Department of Health and Human Services, came under scrutiny during his confirmation hearings for investments he made while serving in Congress. The Georgia lawmaker traded hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of shares in health-related companies, even as he voted on and sponsored legislation affecting the industry.
Democrats accused Price of potentially using his office to enrich himself. One lawmaker called for an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, citing concerns Price could have violated the STOCK Act.
According to the report, the investigation of Price’s trades by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York was underway at the time of Bharara’s dismissal, said the person.
Preet Bharara was one of 46 U.S. attorneys asked to resign after Trump took office. It is standard for new presidents to replace those officials with their own appointees. But Bharara’s firing came as a surprise because the president had met with him at Trump Tower soon after the election. As he left that meeting, Bharara told reporters Trump asked if he would be prepared to remain in his post, and said that he had “agreed to stay on.”
When the Trump administration instead asked for Bharara’s resignation, the prosecutor refused, and he said he was then fired. Trump has not explained the reason behind his questionable decision, but Bharara fanned suspicions that his dismissal was politically motivated via his personal Twitter account.
“I did not resign,” he wrote in one tweet over the weekend. “Moments ago I was fired.”
“By the way,” Bharara said in a second tweet, “now I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like.”
The attorney was referring to a commission that was launched by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2013 to investigate state government corruption, only to be disbanded by the governor the next year as its work grew close to his office. In that case, Bharara vowed to continue the commission’s work, and eventually charged Cuomo associates and won convictions of several prominent lawmakers.
Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, questioned Trump’s motives in firing U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, suggesting that he might have been acting to stop a potential corruption investigation. He was right.
The White House didn’t respond to questions about whether Trump or anyone in his cabinet was aware of the inquiry into Price’s trades.