United States President Donald Trump tried to call US Attorney Preet Bharara before firing him, a White House official said. The call to the high-profile New York prosecutor was made in an effort to "thank him for his service and to wish him good luck."
A US law enforcement official however said that Bharara declined to take the call by Trump on Thursday stating that he did not want to talk to the US President without his superior's approval.
The US Attorney on Saturday said that he was fired from his position after he defied a request by the Trump administration to resign. Bharara's removal came as a shock to many as he was asked by Trump in November last year to stay on with his government.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday has asked the 46 chief federal prosecutors from Obama administration to tender their resignation, including Bharara. The abrupt move by the Trump administration has come as a surprise even though the US attorneys are political appointees. Every new administration does not replace all US attorneys at once.
The resignation requests were confirmed by a Justice Department spokesperson, including Bharara whose office looks after some of the most critical business and criminal cases that pass through the federal judicial system, according to Reuters. As the chief federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, Bharara oversaw several notable corruption and white-collar criminal cases, as well as prosecutions of terrorism suspects.
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Bharara had reportedly met Trump on November 30, after which the attorney had said that the duo had a "good meeting" and he had agreed to continue in Trump's administration.
Reports state that when an official contacted Bharara to tender his resignation, the US attorney was left confused whether the person asking him to resign was aware that Trump has asked him to remain in office. The confirmation of all the resignations was not immediately clear.
The White House declined to comment further on the resignations.
Three watchdog groups, on Wednesday, had asked Bharara to take steps to prevent the Trump Organisation from receiving benefits from foreign governments. The benefits may enrich Trump who has not forgone the ownership of his business.
Norm Eisen, a former White House ethics lawyer who leads one of the groups, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said that the timing of Bharara's firing was questionable.
"I do believe that something odd happened," he said. "You don't decide to keep 46 folks on, then suddenly demand their immediate exit, without some precipitating cause or causes."