Donald Trump’s abrupt firing of US Attorney Preet Bharara last week raised many eyebrows in New York and Washington. Mr. Bharara had built a reputation as a politically neutral, extremely competent US Attorney, who, as the New York Times put it, had “made a name for himself as one of the nation’s most aggressive and outspoken prosecutors of public corruption and Wall Street crime.”
It turns out one of his most high profile investigations at the time of his firing was an investigation into Fox News. Details of the investigation are sparse, but it appears that the investigation focused on the right-wing news network’s business practices, including monetary payouts to women who accused the network of creating a culture of sexual harassment.
As reported by the New York Times, “The existence of the grand jury investigation of Fox News was disclosed in a state court proceeding last month by Judd Burstein, a Manhattan lawyer representing a former daytime host for Fox, Andrea Tantaros, who said her career suffered after spurning advances from Mr. Ailes. She charged that the network operated like a “sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult.”
Now, it appears that on the short list of candidates to replace Bharara is Marc Mukasey. Mukasey has been the lawyer to none other than disgraced former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, who was forced out of Fox following sexual harassment allegations. Ailes is scheduled to testify before a grand jury as part of the very investigation formerly led by Mr. Bharara.
To summarize, Trump fired a US Attorney overseeing an investigation into Fox News. On Trump’s short list to replace the fired US Attorney is an attorney for Fox News’s former chairman – a man who, incidentally, is scheduled to testify as part of the US Attorney’s investigation into Fox News.
Should Trump appoint Mukasey, just about every ethical rule in existence would require Mr. Mukasey to recuse himself from the investigation into Fox News. However, given the Trump administration’s consistent contempt for the entire concept of a conflict of interest, we will not hold our breath.