Preet Bharara Says Trump Tried to Build Relationship With Him Before Firing


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Preet Bharara, the former United States attorney in Manhattan. He said James B. Comey’s talks with President Trump “felt a little bit like déjà vu.”

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Preet Bharara, the former United States attorney in Manhattan, said on Sunday that President Trump tried to cultivate a relationship with him in the months before he was abruptly fired in March.

Mr. Bharara said the contacts with Mr. Trump made him increasingly uncomfortable because they broke with longstanding Justice Department rules on communicating with the White House. Mr. Bharara, who first publicly disclosed the contacts and his concerns about them after he was fired, said Mr. Trump’s communications were strikingly similar to those between the president and those described by the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, who was fired last month.

“When I’ve been reading the stories of how the president has been contacting Jim Comey over time, felt a little bit like déjà vu,” Mr. Bharara said Sunday on “This Week” on ABC.

In his Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday, Mr. Comey said he became uneasy with the president’s repeated conversations with him, including a private White House dinner in February. Mr. Comey said he believed that Mr. Trump, who requested his loyalty during the meal, was trying to “create some sort of patronage relationship.”

Mr. Bharara said he had a similar feeling about his conversations with Mr. Trump. “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,” he told ABC News, calling the exchanges “a very weird and peculiar thing.”

The first contact between Mr. Trump and Mr. Bharara took place on Nov. 30, on the 26th floor of Trump Tower in Manhattan. Mr. Trump, then the president-elect, praised his work and asked for him to stay on, Mr. Bharara said.

About two weeks later, Mr. Bharara said he missed a call from Mr. Trump, leading him to consult with his senior aides about whether it was appropriate to return the call. Because Mr. Trump was not yet president, Mr. Bharara said he believed it was fine to call him.

“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 O.K.,” Mr. Bharara said on Sunday. “It was a little bit uncomfortable, but he was not the president, he was only the president-elect.”

Mr. Trump called a second time two days before his Jan. 20 inauguration, in which the president-elect just wanted to “check in and shoot the breeze,” Mr. Bharara said. The final contact occurred March 9, a day before Mr. Bharara was among 46 United States attorneys asked to resign.

Mr. Trump was then president, so Mr. Bharara said he declined to return the call and reported it to the chief of staff of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Mr. Bharara refused to resign and was fired on March 11.

“To this day I have no idea why I was fired,” he said. “You know, it doesn’t bother me. I’m living a great good life, and very happily.”

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