By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: June 23, 2017
Former FBI Director James Comey has testified to Congress that he was uncomfortable with the multiple contacts by the President. Comey was fired by Trump after declining to give a pledge of loyalty to the President. Now, official government emails have been released documenting that another top law enforcement official with jurisdiction to investigate Donald Trump and his business associates received “uncomfortable” contacts by the President and was then fired after declining to return a phone call.
Yesterday evening, Jason Leopold and Claudia Koerner, reporters for Buzzfeed, released emails they had obtained under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the U.S. Justice Department. The emails documented concerns raised to Justice Department officials by Preet Bharara, at the time the top Federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, over a voice mail left by President Trump’s secretary, Madeline Westerhout, on March 9, seeking a call back to the President. This would have been the fourth contact by Trump to Bharara since Trump’s election win, the prior three having occurred while Trump was President-elect.
Bharara, after consulting with the Justice Department regarding the March 9 contact, called the President’s secretary back and informed her that it was the Justice Department’s advice that he not “speak directly to the President at this time.” Bharara was fired two days later by Trump after refusing a request to resign.
On June 11, Bharara appeared on ABC’s This Week and was interviewed by host George Stephanopoulos. The following exchange was part of the interview according to the official transcript:
STEPHANOPOULOS: You had several encounters with President-elect Trump before you were fired by President Trump back in March starting at the — during the transition he invited you to Trump Tower, asked you to stay on as U.S. attorney.
BHARARA: He did.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And then he followed that up with two phone calls as president-elect.
BHARARA: He did.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What happened in those phone calls?
BHARARA: So they’re unusual phone calls and it sort of — when I’ve been reading the stories of how the President has been contacting Jim Comey over time, felt a little bit like deja vu. And I’m not the FBI director, but I was the chief federal law enforcement officer in Manhattan with jurisdiction over a lot of things including, you know, business interests and other things in New York.
The number of times that President Obama called me in seven-and-a-half years was zero. The number of types I would have been expected to be called by the President of the United States would be zero because there has to be some kind of arm’s length relationship given the jurisdiction that various people had.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What did he say?
BHARARA: So he called me in December, ostensibly just to shoot the breeze and asked me how I was doing and wanted to make sure I was okay. It was similar to what Jim Comey testified to with respect to a call he got when he was getting on the helicopter. I didn’t say anything at the time to him. It was a little bit uncomfortable, but he was not the President, he was only the President-elect.
He called me again two days before the inauguration, again seemingly to check in and shoot the breeze and then he called me a third time when he — after he became President and I refused to return the call.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That you didn’t take because he was President. But on those other phone calls James Comey talked about the President trying to develop what he called a patronage relationship. Is that what you think was happening with you?
BHARARA: That’s not the word I use. I was in discussions with my own folks, and in reporting the phone call to the chief of staff to the attorney general I said, it appeared to be that he was trying to cultivate some kind of relationship.