Fired attorney refused to take Trump's call
White House official said the US President wanted to 'thank him for his service'
WASHINGTON: Two days before US attorney Preet Bharara was fired, President Donald Trump tried to call the New York prosecutor in what a White House official said was an effort to "thank him for his service and to wish him good luck".
But a law enforcement official said Mr Bharara declined to take the call, placed on Thursday, saying he did not want to talk to Mr Trump without the approval of his superiors.
Mr Bharara said on Saturday he had been fired after he defied a request to resign. The move was a surprise because he had told reporters in November that Mr Trump had asked him to remain in the job.
As the chief federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, Mr Bharara oversaw notable corruption and white-collar criminal cases, as well as terrorism cases.
He was one of 46 Obama administration holdovers who were asked to resign by Trump's Justice Department on Friday.
Although US attorneys are political appointees, and the request from the Justice Department is part of a routine process, the move came as a surprise. Not every new administration replaces all US attorneys at once.
Mr Bharara said his deputy, Mr Joon Kim, will serve as his temporary replacement.
On Wednesday, three watchdog groups had asked Mr Bharara to take steps to prevent the Trump Organization from receiving benefits from foreign governments that might enrich Mr Trump, who has not given up ownership of the business.
Mr Norm Eisen, a former White House ethics lawyer who leads one of the groups, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, questioned the timing of the firings.
"I do believe that something odd happened," he said. "You don't decide to keep 46 folks on, then suddenly demand their immediate exit, without some precipitating cause or causes."
Republican Senator John McCain said Mr Trump acted within his rights.
"Other administrations have done the same thing, perhaps not in as abrupt a fashion," Mr McCain said on CNN.