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Fired by Donald Trump, former US attorney Preet Bharara gets political

LiveMint logoLiveMint 08-06-2017 AP

New York: As Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor, Preet Bharara cultivated an image as a lawman above politics. No more.

In the three months since he was fired by President Donald Trump, the former US attorney has lashed out at the Republican administration in speeches and on Twitter. He’s also jabbed at the president of Turkey, called one GOP congressman a “fool,” and said if another were an immigrant, he’d face deportation. With the constraints of a law enforcement job gone, Bharara has found a more political voice for himself, especially online. He has already been approached by Democrats who want him to run for elected office as soon as next year.

People close to Bharara say he’s eager to maintain an active voice in the political debate particularly anything to do with the president who forced him from the job he loved. It remains unclear, however, if the 48-year-old India-born attorney will continue to speak out as a private citizen or as a political candidate. Some friends want him to enjoy his new post as a “distinguished scholar” at New York University, where he is contemplating writing a book or contributing to his brother’s media site.

Others want him to join a private law firm, where his experience battling public corruption could be put to practical use. “A lot of people want a lot of things from Preet. I’m not sure Preet wants any of that for himself,” said former justice department attorney Viet Dinh, a close friend of Bharara’s since college. “Right now, what he wants to do is spend time with his family, enjoy a quasi-academic perch and take a breath.”

Bharara declined to be interviewed for this story, but friends and colleagues paint the picture of a man who has no plans to disappear from the spotlight after being forced out after seven years leading the US attorney’s office in Manhattan a region that covers Trump Tower. The conditions are already in place for a transition from federal prosecutor to political prospect.

Already, a captivated New York media is quick to promote Bharara’s Twitter feed, which is packed with slaps at Trump and other Republicans. He tweeted Wednesday that “people including presidents reap what they sow.” Last week, he went after California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher: “One benefit of being a private citizen is that I can now publicly say that Rep. Rohrabacher is a fool.” And in March, he threw shade at New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose administration was plagued by the so-called Bridgegate controversy: “Yes, we all know that Chris Christie is great at spotting & screening out problematic staff,” he wrote.

At the same time, Bharara wears his dismissal as a badge of honour, even if he’s not quite over the hangover of losing the job Trump once told him he could keep. The president fired Bharara in March as part of a broader effort to replace US attorneys appointed by President Barack Obama. “I loved that place like people love their family,” Bharara said during an April speech at Manhattan’s Cooper Union. “I was asked to resign. I refused. I insisted on being fired, so I was.” The dismissal may have helped Bharara’s political career, should he want one.

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