Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District in Manhattan, said Wednesday he will stay on as United States Attorney in Manhattan after President-elect Donald Trump asked him to remain in his post.
Bharara, who met Wednesday with Trump, said he told the president-elect that the U.S. attorney’s office would continue to conduct its work “independently, without fear or favor for the last seven years.”
Bharara said Trump called the meeting at Trump Tower, which lasted less than an hour.
“We had a good meeting. I said I would absolutely consider staying on. I agreed to stay on,” Bharara told reporters. “I have already spoken to Senator \[Jeff\] Sessions, who is as you know is the nominee to be the attorney general. He also asked that I stay on.”
As chief federal prosecutor in Manhattan, Bharara has won plaudits for his focus on political corruption and insider trading cases. His office also has been involved in the investigation of alleged sexting by former Rep. Anthony Weiner.
Bharara also once worked for U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who said Wednesday that Trump had called him last week “and asked me what I thought about Preet Bharara continuing his role as U.S. Attorney. I told him I thought Preet was great, and I would be all for keeping him on the job and fully support it. I am glad they met and am glad Preet is staying on. He’s been one of the best U.S. Attorneys New York has ever seen.”
Also Wednesday, Trump said he plans to formally separate himself from his international business interests in order to help eliminate any appearance of conflicts of interest when he takes office.
He also tweeted that he was drawing up legal documents for the transfer.
Trump will relinquish his real estate empire to his children, his senior communications adviser Sean Spicer told reporters in a morning call. Spicer declined to offer further specifics.
Meanwhile, Trump’s transition team said he had narrowed his choices for secretary of state to four people, confirming that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani were among the finalists.
Spicer told reporters that more details about the leadership of Trump’s businesses will be divulged at a mid-December news conference in New York City, Spicer said.
Trump’s three eldest children, Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric, have executive positions at his company.
Spicer did not answer a question about whether Trump will remove himself from ownership or just operations.
“It is no small task to transition a multibillionaire who has done so many different things into being completely ready for taking over as the president of the United States,” Spicer said.
Spicer stressed that the most important part of Trump’s announcement via Twitter was to “really reaffirm the commitment the president-elect has for this to be his sole focus and also we’ve already started to see the results of it.”
Spicer was referring to a deal that Carrier, the Indiana-based air conditioning company, struck with Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence to keep nearly 1,000 manufacturing jobs in the state rather than moving them to Mexico.
Trump and Pence, who is the governor of Indiana, will be in Indianapolis on Thursday afternoon to speak about the Carrier agreement.
They are scheduled to appear in Cincinnati later Thursday to kick off their “Thank You Tour 2016.”
Trump’s vast real estate business includes skyscraper residences, office buildings, hotels and golf courses in locations such as Manhattan, Brazil, Scotland and India.
In a meeting with a Scottish official after his election, Trump discussed his opposition to wind farms that could block views at his golf course. He also met with real estate executives from India to discuss a skyscraper bearing his name and extended an invitation to foreign diplomats to stay at a Trump hotel near the White House when they are in town for business.
Trump emphasized in a series of tweets Wednesday morning that he did not believe he was mandated to separate his business from his role as president.
“I will be holding a major news conference in New York City with my children on December 15 to discuss the fact that I will be leaving my great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country in order to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
He added: “While I am not mandated to do this under the law, I feel it is visually important, as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses. Hence, legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations. The Presidency is a far more important task!”
Bharara, who once worked for U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the incoming Senate minority leader, was asked at a recent news conference whether he would want to stay on under Trump.
“I have said and I’ll say again, I love my job, I enjoy doing my job, I think we’re still doing great work here in the office,” Bharara said. “I serve at the pleasure of the president like every U.S. attorney does, and if and when our president decides to replace me I’ll ride off into the sunset.”
Also Wednesday, Pence is scheduled to be in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday for meetings with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), transition aides said.
Trump, meanwhile, is expected to also meet with Linda McMahon, former president of World Wrestling Entertainment; Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.); former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly.
With John Riley