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This Is Draining the Swamp?
April 24, 2017
Is this how President Donald Trump is fulfilling his campaign promise to “drain the swamp?”
Take the case of Reza Zarrab, a 33-year-old Turkish businessman who was arrested in Florida in 2016 and is being held in a Manhattan jail after he allegedly conspired to violate U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Zarrab is reportedly close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who recently won a slim majority vote to increase his authoritarian powers. Trump immediately congratulated him.
According to The New York Times, Erdogan has cited “malicious” intentions in Zarrab's prosecution. During Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Turkey three weeks ago, the Times reported, Turkey’s foreign minister accused Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York whose office is prosecuting Zarrab, of being used by anti-Turkish forces.
Zarrab is represented by Benjamin Barfman, a heavyweight criminal attorney. But key roles are being played by Rudy Giuliani, who was an early Trump supporter and pal, and by former federal judge Michael Mukasey, who was attorney general under President George W. Bush.
Although plea bargains are usually struck in courthouse settings by prosecutors and defense attorneys, Giuliani and Mukasey traveled to Turkey in February to meet with Erdogan about Zarrab. In court papers made public last week, Mukasey said the meeting’s purpose was to seek “a state-to-state resolution of this case.” He added: “Senior officials in both the U.S. government and the Turkish government remain receptive to using the possibility of an agreement.”
Bharara said on Twitter of this: “One just hopes that the rule of law, and its independent enforcement, still matters in the United States and at the Department of Justice.”
After his election, Trump told Bharara he would retain him as U.S. attorney. But Trump fired him last month. Trump has given no explanation for his change of heart, although it may have been payback to U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, who was Bharara’s patron and has been giving Trump an especially hard time in Washington.
Trump has not yet named Bharara’s successor. One name in the mix is that of Marc Mukasey. He is Michael Mukasey’s son. He works at Giuliani’s law firm.
And, as an exclusive bonus for NYPD Confidential readers, we now offer Steve’s meatloaf recipe:
Leonard Levitt will be on vacation next week. The column will return on Monday, May 8.