Fired Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara paid a triumphal final visit to his office in New York City late Monday afternoon, applauded by a rope line of cheering aides and serenaded by bagpipes as he left for the last time.
Bharara, axed over the weekend by the Justice Department after he refused to submit a letter of resignation — requested of all holdover Obama administration U.S. attorneys — was asked by a reporter if he had any message for President Donald Trump.
“I love New York,” answered Bharara. “And this is the best prosecutor’s office you’ve ever seen.”
Earlier in his impromptu visit, Bharara made private remarks to staff inside the U.S. attorney’s office at St. Andrews Plaza. The political-style public sayonara outside was a way for the office to say goodbye, aides said, although Bharara had to go back in to get his car when it was over.
Bharara, who became a larger-than-life figure among New Yorkers through a string of high-profile political corruption and Wall Street prosecutions, was asked to stay on by Trump in November.
After he announced his firing in a tweet on Saturday, deputy Joon Kim took over as acting U.S. Attorney and sent out an email to staff saying the office’s work would continue, aides said.
On Sunday, Bharara put out a tweet comparing his firing to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s shutdown of a state Moreland Commission formed to investigate corruption, triggering speculation that he felt he was canned to quash probes.
There has been no evidence of that yet, and Bharara made no reference to it during the public part of his farewell. Bharara’s earlier remarks to staff, said one person who attended, suggested he remained uncertain about why he was let go.
“I’m not sure he still knows what the answer to that is,” said the person, who asked not to be identified.