What Donald Trump’s Preet pick means for de Blasio, Cuomo and Giuliani | Crain’s


What Donald Trump’s Preet pick means for de Blasio, Cuomo and Giuliani

The possible reasons behind President-elect’s decision to keep U.S. Attorney Bharara By Jeremy Smerd

Of President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees so far, the most curious—from a New York perspective—is Preet Bharara, President Barack Obama’s U.S. attorney for the Southern District, who agreed last week to work under Republican Attorney General-nominee Jeff Sessions.

Sen. 
Charles Schumer, who had long ago hired Bharara as his chief counsel, reportedly blessed the deal, lending it an aura of bipartisanship.

The choice indicates that Trump, who has said he will “drain the swamp” in Washington, likes what Bharara has done so far in New York, where he has taken down former state Sen. Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, among others.

In Bharara, Trump finds a prosecutor who is above reproach and who can keep the pressure on Mayor Bill de Blasio, whom Trump has called “the worst mayor in the history of New York City.” Bharara is investigating the mayor’s fundraising operations and role in the sale of Long Island College Hospital. Retaining Bharara also makes life uncomfortable for Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Bharara recently obtained a guilty plea—and cooperation—from a Cuomo confidant and has charged others, including a former top aide, in a wide-ranging indictment involving the governor’s upstate economic-development programs.

All this suggests that Bharara will continue to be given wide discretion in how he conducts his job. Some insiders are speculating there could be fallout from Rudy Giuliani’s boast in October about having connections inside the FBI that would affect the election. “We’ve got a couple of surprises left,” the Trump surrogate told Fox News on Oct. 25. Three days later, FBI Director James Comey said agents working on the Anthony Weiner sexting investigation had found emails that appeared relevant to the Hillary Clinton email probe, which he had previously said was closed.

Some former prosecutors believe a Southern District investigation into a possible leak in the Weiner case is imminent, if not already underway. Bharara’s office declined to comment. “A leak of confidential law enforcement information is always troubling because it corrupts the integrity of our criminal justice system and calls its fairness into doubt,” said a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District.

“Nowhere is this more true than when the investigation itself involves allegations of corruption by public officials, because the leaks are inevitably seen as politically motivated attacks.” Giuliani was an effective surrogate but, like Gov. Chris Christie (and perhaps for similar reasons), he seems to have been pushed aside. If an investigation materializes, then Trump—intentionally or not—would really have a bipartisan claim to draining the swamp.

A version of this article appears in the December 5, 2016, print issue of Crain’s New York Busines

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About SquarePegDem

A former state legislator turned NY Post editorial board member, thought-leader, public affairs consultant and commentator, columnist and blogger. Michael has appeared on Al Jazeera America Tonight, NY1/Inside City Hall, FoxNews.com LIVE, YNN/Capital Tonight, The Brian Lehrer Show, The Fred Dicker Show, The Capitol Press Room, and The Daily Show. His op-eds have appeared in the NY Post, City and State, The Legislative Gazette, Bronx Times, The Troy Record, Buffalo News, and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. To schedule speaking engagements, email MBenjamin9@optimum.net.
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