NEW YORK – Indian American prosecutor Preet Bharara, who was fired by President Donald Trump’s administration in March, has called for the appointment of an independent counsel to lead the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, the media reported.
Former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Bharara in an op-ed published on Sunday evening in the Washington Post said the move would be of “common sense”, especially in the wake of former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey’s dismissal last week.
Comey was heading the FBI’s probe into Russia’s links with Trump’s presidential election.
“Jim (James) Comey was once my boss and remains my friend. I know that many people are mad at him. He has at different times become a cause for people’s frustration and anger on both sides of the aisle. Some of those people may have a point…I am proud to know a man who had the courage to say no to a President,” Bharara wrote.
“And in the tumult of this time, many should be asking, Are there still public servants who are prepared to say no to the President?” he pondered.
Bharara said a special prosecutor must be “independent and uncompromised” and that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Russia probe because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from it, must appoint one.
“Given the manner of Comey’s firing and the pretextual reasons proffered for it, there is no other way,” he wrote.
While early explanations from White House aides detailed how it was Rosenstein’s recommendation that persuaded Trump to fire Comey, the President himself said in an interview with NBC News that he had made up his mind to fire the FBI director before meeting with his deputy attorney general.
Trump also said that the Russia investigation was on his mind as he made the decision to dismiss Comey, escalating alarm in some circles that the president had sought to impede the bureau’s probe.
Bharara in his op-ed piece said Rosenstein, who he labelled “a respected career prosecutor”, nonetheless bears a special responsibility to appoint a special prosecutor given his role in Comey’s firing.
Rosenstein has “mostly deserved the doubts he generated” by seemingly aiding Trump in dismissing the FBI director, Bharara wrote, and as such, bringing in a special prosecutor “would not only ensure the independence of the investigation, but also provide evidence of Rosenstein’s own independence.”
“A special prosecutor alone is not sufficient…It must be supplemented by a truly bipartisan investigation in Congress as well as a replacement FBI director who is apolitical and sensitive to the law-enforcement mission.”
“History will judge this moment,” Bharara concluded, adding “It’s not too late to get it right, and justice demands it.”