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Got Some 'Unusual Phone Calls' from Donald Trump, Reveals Preet Bharara

Preet Bharara has said that there was enough evidence to begin proceedings against Donald Trump for obstruction of justice over alleged interference in the Russia probe.

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Updated:June 12, 2017, 10:16 AM IST
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Got Some 'Unusual Phone Calls' from Donald Trump, Reveals Preet Bharara
Preet Bharara was one of the 45 attorneys who were asked to resign earlier this year by the Trump administration. (Image: Reuters)

Washington: Preet Bharara, the India-born former top US federal prosecutor, has said that there was enough evidence to begin proceedings against President Donald Trump for obstruction of justice over alleged interference in the Russia probe.

Bharara also alleged that before firing him, Trump had tried to cultivate relationship with him and that the pattern was similar to that of sacked FBI director James Comey. Bharara was one of the 45 attorneys who were asked to resign earlier this year by the Trump administration.

"I think there's absolutely evidence to begin a case (against Trump). I think it's very important for all sorts of armchair speculators in the law to be clear that no one knows right now whether there is a provable case of obstruction," Bharara told ABC News.

"It's also true I think from based on what I see as a third party and out of government that there's no basis to say there's no obstruction," he said in his first television interview after being fired by Trump.

ALSO READ | Fired by Trump, Former US Attorney Preet Bharara Gets Political

Bharara said, at this point, on whether or not the president has legal authority to fire or to direct an investigation, he does really get it. "It's a little silly to me. The fact that you have authority to remove someone from office doesn't automatically immunise that act from criminal responsibility," the 48-year-old attorney argued.

"And I'll give you an example of something from a different context. If it were to be true, and this is all made up for the sake of argument...that Michael Flynn offered a million dollars to Donald Trump and said I'm going to give you this million dollars and I'm giving it to you because I want you to fire Jim Comey and then Donald Trump fired Jim Comey, which everyone agrees he has the absolute authorisation and authority to do, that would be an open and shut federal criminal case," Bharara opined.

So this argument that one keeps hearing on the TV shows that the mere fact that the president can fire an official at will does not solve the problem, PTI quoted the former top prosecutor as saying.

Defending Comey, Bharara said nothing in the memo or in the conversations that the sacked FBI chief had with his friend at Columbia Law School was classified.

"The main point that people should be focusing on, from what I can see, is that you have uncontroverted from someone who was under oath that on at least one occasion, the President of the United States cleared a room of his vice president and his attorney general, and told his director of the FBI that he should essentially drop a case against his former national security adviser. And whether or not that is impeachable or that's indictable, that's a very serious thing," he said

It is an incredibly serious thing if people think that the President of the US can tell heads of law enforcement agencies, based on his own whim or his own personal preferences or friendships, that they should or should not pursue particular criminal cases against individuals, he said.

Talking about attempts by Trump to cultivate a relationship with him, Bharara said there were "unusual phone calls" and while reading the stories of how the president had been contacting Comey over time, he had a feeling of 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," Bharara said.

"The number of times that President Obama called me in seven-and-a-half years was zero. The number of types 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," he said.

Bharara said Trump called him in December when he was the president-elect.

"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," Bharara told ABC News.

ALSO READ| Preet Bharara Raises Concerns Over James Comey's Firing

"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," Bharara said, adding that it appeared to him that Trump was trying to cultivate some kind of relationship.

"It may be hard for viewers of yours to understand if you're a layperson and not in the Justice Department, you know, what's wrong with that. The CEO of a company wants to call a field manager somewhere in the country because he thinks he's an up-and-comer, what's wrong with that? The problem is the Justice Department is different," he said.

Bharara said it was a very "weird and peculiar" thing for the president to have a one-on-one conversation with a person has been asked to investigate various things and is in a position hypothetically to investigate business interests and associates of the president, PTI reported.

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