Cicilline Asks DOJ Inspector General to Investigate Yates, Bharara Firings

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

WASHINGTON - U.S. Congressman and DPCC Co-Chair David N. Cicilline (RI-1) today sent a letter to Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz to request an investigation into the firings of former acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Horowitz, who was appointed in 2012, has the power to investigate allegations of misconduct within the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

"I write in regards to the firings of former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and U.S. Attorney General for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara by President Donald Trump’s administration," Cicilline said in his letter. "I believe the facts available warrant further consideration by your office, as both firings occurred concurrently with a DOJ investigation that was unfavorable to the Trump administration or within days of the White House learning that such an investigation was happening. To ensure the fair administration of the law, is imperative that the Justice Department operate free of political influence or interference from other elected officials."

Yates was terminated days after informing the White House Counsel that then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was a security risk. Flynn reportedly misled officials regarding the content of his conversations with Russia's ambassador to the United States. He has requested immunity in exchange for his testimony before Congressional committees investigating the Trump campaign's ties to the Kremlin. 

Bharara, who earned a reputation for prosecuting political corruption and financial fraud during his time in New York's Southern District, was terminated two days after Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sent Bharara a letter asking him to investigate whether President Trump's business interests violate the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution

The full text of Cicilline's letter to Inspector General Horowitz is embedded below. A PDF version of the letter, as delivered, can be downloaded by clicking here

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April 25, 2017

The Honorable Michael E. Horowitz

Inspector General for the Department of Justice

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Suite 4706

Washington, DC 20530-0001

Dear Mr. Horowitz:

I write in regards to the firings of former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and U.S. Attorney General for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara by President Donald Trump’s administration.  

As you know, President Trump fired Acting Attorney General Yates on January 30, 2017, reportedly because Yates refused to enforce the President’s executive order 13769 titled “Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States.” Subsequent news reports show that, on January 26, 2017, Yates informed the Trump administration that Michael Flynn misled the administration in saying he had not spokenwith Russia’s ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, about sanctions for interference in 2016 election. Yates also warned the White House that, because the Flynn-Kislyak communications occurred before he became national security advisor, Flynn could be susceptible to blackmail by the Kremlin.  

On March 10, 2017, U.S. Attorney Bharara was asked to tender his resignation by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and wasofficially fired on March 11, 2017.  Two days before on March 8, 2017, ethics watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sent Bharara a letter asking him to investigate whether President Trump's business interests violate the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Additionally, at the time of the firing, Bharara—who gained prominence for prosecuting financial corruption cases—was conducting an investigation into Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, Tom Price, for his trading of stocks in biotech companies. I believe it is also important to note that then President-elect Trump personally asked Bharara to stay on as U.S. Attorney in November 2016.

On March 21, 2017, you testified before the House Committee on the Judiciary for a hearing titled “Examining Systemic Management and Fiscal Challenges within the Department of Justice.”  At said hearing, I asked you about the following matters in relation to the firings of Sally Yates and PreetBharara.  

• Whether it would violate DOJ protocol if an employee is fired due to the nature of an investigation in which they are engaged

• Whether the President or Attorney General can fire a DOJ official because they do not like the target of an investigation that official is undertaking

• Whether a DOJ employee being fired because of political considerations would be appropriate focus of an investigation by the Inspector General

At said hearing, you responded that it would be a serious matter if a Justice Department employee were fired in order to shut down or interfere with an ongoing investigation but would need further predicating facts to start an investigation in the cases of Yates and Bharara.  I believe the facts available warrant further consideration by your office, as both firings occurred concurrently with a DOJ investigation that was unfavorable to the Trump administration or within days of the White House learning that such an investigation was happening. To ensure the fair administration of the law, is imperative that the Justice Department operate free of political influence or interference from other elected officials.  

Thank you for your attention to this matter. 

David N. Cicilline

Ranking Member, House Committee on the Judiciary

Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law

 

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