Preet Bharara Is on the Warpath Against Trump

Preet Bharara is the inspiration for the character played by Paul Giamatti on Showtime‘s hit program Billions. I’m not sure how he feels about that since the portrayal isn’t entirely sympathetic, but it’s an indication of Bharara’s reputation in certain powerful circles, as well as of the importance of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. As the show indicates, the Southern District covers Wall Street, and investigating the richest people in America for possible indictment is not a job for the weak-kneed.

After coming into office, Trump quickly asked for the resignations of the currently serving U.S. Attorneys, but he made an exception in Bharara’s case. He explicitly asked Bharara to stay on, which may have been an acknowledgement of his reputation or simply admiration for his status as a fellow celebrity. I don’t know.

What was more significant was that the president quickly changed his mind and fired Bharara, and that this decision came at a time when rumors were circling that Bharara might be investigating him or his cabinet.

At first, Bharara expressed his astonishment and displeasure but was fairly muted about it. That’s changing now.

Over the weekend, he had a piece published in the Washington Post that called for “a truly bipartisan investigation in Congress” of Russian interference in our election. It also called for “an independent and uncompromised special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation.”

And then today, Bharara took to Twitter to comment on rumors that Trump is thinking about firing a bunch of his senior staff.

That could be an oblique reference to Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, which provides:

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

Maybe Preet Bharara is just snarking on Twitter, but he knows more about Trump’s vulnerabilities than pretty much anyone outside of the FBI’s investigative team, and he’s decided that something needs to be done to rein in the president, which is clear from his essay in the Post where he asks if there are still public servants who will say no to the president.

Of course, it’s speculative, but there seems to be a somewhat formless consensus forming that things are coming to a head with the FBI investigation. The firing of Comey was one indication. Comments coming from people like Joe Scarborough who claims to have sources at the Bureau are another.

Scarborough said he’s heard from FBI sources that the investigation had gathered steam in recent weeks, and he said Comey was fired in response to that development.

“They have already found the string and they are pulling on it, based on my contacts inside the FBI and they are starting to tug on that string, and they are going to keep tugging, keeping going, and it’s accelerated because of the way he fired Comey, and he knows it,” Scarborough said.

I’m not sure that anyone knows quite what to do with the reporting of Louise Mensch and Claude Taylor, but they’ve been ahead of the curve on the investigation at times, and they’re either getting some very bad information, they’ve lost their minds, or they’re ahead of the curve again:

Separate sources with links to the intelligence and justice communities have stated that a sealed indictment has been granted against Donald Trump.

While it is understood that the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution means that, until Mr. Trump is impeached, he cannot be prosecuted, sources say that the indictment is intended by the FBI and prosecutors in the Justice Department to form the basis of Mr. Trump’s impeachment. The indictment is, perhaps uniquely, not intended or expected to be used for prosecution, sources say, because of the constitutional position of the President.

That’s the entirely of their report, the brevity of which they justified by saying that it contains only that which was agreed on by both of their sources. They’re pretty far out on a limb with that “bombshell,” but it can’t be dismissed out of hand when there are several other pieces of the puzzle that seem to fit in with the idea that a noose is closing on the president.

The 25th Amendment is one way, short of impeachment, for Trump to be removed from power. Bharara, it seems to me, is saying that it should be considered. Why is he saying that now? Is it only because Comey was fired or because he has some insight into where the FBI is with their investigation?

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.