Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A moment in history: The incoming POTUS personally picks one of the top U.S. attorneys, and he's of the other party


From, 12:04pm [click to enlarge]:

From, 2:47pm [click to enlarge]:

by Ken

For a few hours earlier today, as you can see above, there was Drama in the Air regarding the scheduled powwow between the president-elect and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara. As it happens, during that very time period I happen to have been in occasional televisual contact with developing news, while I was working at getting a new TV cable box installed and getting all my TVs and cable boxes humming.

The above screen shots from the websites of NYC's tabloids chronicle this moment in history in the making. From the written record, here's what the Daily News's Victoria Bekiempis and Adam Edelmann reported after the fateful meeting, as described in the dispatch above headlined "Preet Bharara will stay on as US Attorney at Trump's request":
Preet Bharara said Wednesday that he'd agreed to stay on in his role as Manhattan U.S. Attorney at President-elect Donald Trump's request.

Following a meeting with Trump inside Trump Tower, Bharara explained that he had been summoned by the President-elect to discuss remaining in his position and had made up his mind "to stay on."

"The President-elect asked, presumably because he's a New Yorker and is aware of the great work that our office has done over the past seven years ... to discuss whether or not I'd be prepared to stay on as the United States attorney to do the work as we have done it, independently, without fear or favor for the last seven years," Bharara told reporters inside the lobby of the mogul's Midtown abode.

"We had a good meeting. I said I would absolutely consider staying on. I agreed to stay on," Bharara said, adding that he'd already notified Trump's pick for U.S. Attorney General, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), of his choice.

The News reported earlier this month that Trump would likely ask" Bharara to stay on in his role, despite the fact that incoming Presidents typically bring in their own people to replace the current crop of U.S. attorneys across the country.

"He has a very high regard for him," a campaign official told The News shortly before the election about Trump's fondness for Bharara's tenacity. "Obviously it's caught his attention what (Bharara's) done in New York. It's the same approach Mr. Trump would like to bring to Washington."

Bharara, since he was appointed by President Obama in 2009, has made public corruption a key focus, bringing down elected officials from both parties, including former state Assembly Democratic Speaker Sheldon Silver and ex-state Senate GOP Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

His decision to stay on could spell bad news for Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio, whose administrations are both the subjects of ongoing investigations by Bharara's office.
At first blush Bharara, who has developed a certain reputation as a corruption fighter, doesn't seem all that Trumpish a plan -- especially considering how atypical it is for a new administration to extend the term of a U.S. attorney from the opposite party (not to mention how atypical it is to have the president rather than the attorney general as the public face of a USA hire, and how large the Southern District of NY looms among U.S. legal jursidictions).

Of course on brief reflection it registers that Bharara -- who was so publicly involved in bringing down the leaders of both houses of the monumentally screwed-up NYS Legislature, Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver -- is in a position to cause considerable embarrassment (and worse) to important NYS Democratic players, notably Gov. Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. Which sounds not so much like the new president rampaging against either Democrats as such or corrupt pols but more likely harboring no good thoughts toward greedy pols whose greed runs counter to his own. I'm suggesting that it's not particularly wheeler-dealering that he's targeting as it is practitioners of the wrong kind, who get in the way of what he considers the righteous wheeler-dealers.

Still, even though Bharara's retention was already anticipated in inside circles, it's got my attention. It's hardly the kind of move one would have expected from former GOP presidential candidates Young Johnny McCranky and Willard Romney, not to mention the spectral presences who constituted the Rest of the 2016 GOP Presidential Field. Or, for that matter, the kind of pick that Attorney General-designate Jeff "I Do Too Wear Shoes, Leastwise Most of the Time" Sessions to have urged on the president-elect.

Most presidential administrations have preferred to maintain the appearance of their U.S. attorneys functioning as guardians of justice answerable to their boss the AG rather than to the country's top pol. In reality, of course, they're political actors as well, especially in Republican adminstrations. Think of Ed Meese's Dept. of Justice in the Reagan years, and especially the right-wing enforcing-muscle division Karl Rove turned the DoJ into in the time of George W. "Chimpy the Prez" Bush. Do the optics matter a whole lot?

I don't draw any large conclusions from any of this, other than a case of Trump-being-Trump. I just take note of it.

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