On ABC’s This Week today, as reported by the Washington Post:
Federal attorney says Trump’s contacts made him uncomfortable before he was fired
Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York ousted by President Trump, said Sunday that he had become increasingly uncomfortable with Trump’s efforts to “cultivate some kind of relationship” with him and that his March firing came 22 hours after finally refusing to take a call from the president.
It’s a very weird and peculiar thing for a one-on-one conversation, without the attorney general, without warning, between the president and me or any United States attorney who has been asked to investigate various things,” he said.
Bharara was fired on March 11, a Saturday. He said the story told by former FBI director James B. Comey about his own contacts with the president “felt a little bit like deja vu.”
Based on Comey’s testimony, “I think there’s absolutely evidence to begin a case” for beginning an investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice. “No one knows right now whether there’s a provable case of obstruction … [but] there’s no basis to say there’s no obstruction.”
So Trump chatted up Bharara a couple of times acting all nicey-nice.
What might have happened in the third call that never took place? An invitation to dinner, perhaps?
If you’re Robert Mueller right now, you’re asking yourself: With whom else did Trump try to kindle an inappropriate relationship? And with whom else did he succeed?
Hopefully, Trump’s next tweet will be to accuse Bharara of lying. His surrogates are already taking that approach:
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for one of Trump’s attorneys, said on Twitter on Sunday that it would not be unusual for Trump to contact Bharara and that if he refused to take Trump’s call, “he deserved to be fired.” He accused Bharara of being a “resistance Democrat” with a political “axe to grind.”
By the way, Bharara noted that the number of times he was similarly contacted by President Obama was quote
STEPHANOPOULOS: You had several encounters with President-elect Trump before you were fired by President Trump back in March starting at the — during the transition he invited to you Trump Tower, asked you to stay on as U.S. attorney.
BHARARA: He did.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And then he followed that up with two phone calls as president-elect.
BHARARA: He did.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What happened in those phone calls?
BHARARA: So they’re unusual phone calls and it sort of – when I’ve been reading the stories of how the president has been contacting Jim Comey over time, felt a little bit like deja vu. And I’m not the FBI director, but I was the chief federal law enforcement officer in Manhattan with jurisdiction over a lot of things including, you know, business interests and other things in New York.
The number of times that President Obama called me in seven-and-a-half years was zero. The number of types [sic] I would have been expected to be called by the president of the United States would be zero because there has to be some kind of arm’s length relationship given the jurisdiction that various people had.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What did he say?
BHARARA: So he called me in December, ostensibly just to shoot the breeze and asked me how I was doing and wanted to make sure I was OK. It was similar to what Jim Comey testified to with respect to a call he got when he was getting on the helicopter. I didn’t say anything at the time to him. It was a little bit uncomfortable, but he was not the president, he was only the president-elect.
He called me again two days before the inauguration, again seemingly to check in and shoot the breeze and then he called me a third time when he — after he became president and I refused to return the call.
STEPHANOPOULOS; That you didn’t take because he was president.
But on those other phone calls James Comey talked about the president trying to develop what he called a patronage relationship. Is that what you think was happening with you?
BHARARA: That’s not the word I use. I was in discussions with my own folks, and in reporting the phone call to the chief of staff to the attorney general I said, it appeared to be that he was trying to cultivate some kind of relationship.
[snip] It’s a very weird and peculiar thing for a one-on-one conversation without the attorney general, without warning between the president and me or any United States attorney who has been asked to investigate various things and is in a position hypothetically to investigate business interests and associates of the president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Trump Corporation based in New York.
BHARARA: Hypothetically there is the authority to investigate all sorts of interests relating to a president which is why there are strict guidelines in place about what can or cannot be talked about.
BHARARA: So the call came in. I got a message. We deliberated over it, thought it was inappropriate to return the call. And 22 hours later I was asked to resign along with 45 other people.
Here is the This Week link. The key content begins at about 13:25