Today’s shocker: Manhattan’s U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was fired by the Trump Administration after refusing to tender his resignation, as requested Friday.
This news needs to be viewed both in the proper context, and in a strategic context.
Background: A total of 46 sitting U.S. Attorneys, all appointed by President Obama, were requested to submit their resignations yesterday.
Further background: Submitting your resignation is not the same as an automatic resignation. It allows the Trump Administration (as with predecessor administrations) to accept or decline the resignation. It also allows the administration and the President (at whose pleasure all executive branch officers serve, let’s remember) to exercise the discretion which it has, to decide when to terminate an appointee.
Great lawyers think strategically. This could be strategic.
Bharara may have anticipated being fired, or may have been looking for a way out without necessarily resigning or compromising any ongoing investigation (either civil or criminal) in the office of the United States Attorney he runs in Manhattan.
As such, Bharara would face potential conflicts and ethical hurdles if he negotiated big firm job offers — likely quite lucrative — while still in the federal post. That is because some of those firms representing corporate and individual clients who are (or were) witnesses, subjects or targets of investigations, or defendants.
Now that he is a “fired” and “former” federal employee, Bharara can have those discussions.
He can also collect $400 per week in unemployment benefits. New York State allows a fired employee to collect $420 per week for up to 26 weeks.
Plus, Bharara reserves the rights all fired employees have, including the right to sue for wrongful termination.
This is a great strategic play by Preet Bharara.