Preet Bharara describes Trump's 'unusual' attempts to forge a relationship: 'A very weird and peculiar thing'

Former high-profile US attorney Preet Bharara on Sunday described several unusual interactions he had with President Donald Trump following the 2016 election.

In an interview on ABC News' "This Week," Bharara said Trump called him during the presidential transition "just to shoot the breeze," and described the calls as "a little bit uncomfortable" considering the US attorney's mandate to remain impartial toward subjects within his jurisdiction, which included Trump.

Bharara, who earned a reputation as the "Sheriff of Wall Street," said he suspected the president attempted to forge a relationship between the two men.

Bharara compared his interactions to those former FBI Director James Comey said he had in his Senate testimony on Thursday, in which Trump attempted to forge a closer bond between himself and Comey, who was investigating members of the Trump campaign at the time.

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara speaks during a Reuters Newsmaker event in New York City, U.S., July 13, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File photo
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 20: Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks during a press conference announcing corruption charges against members the New York City Police Department, at the U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York, June 20, 2016 in New York City. Early Monday morning, three members of the New York City Police Department and a businessman, who is a top fundraiser for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, were arrested on federal corruption charges including the exchange of lavish gifts for favors. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 20: Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, gestures at a chart during a press conference announcing corruption charges against members the New York City Police Department, at the U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York, June 20, 2016 in New York City. Early Monday morning, three members of the New York City Police Department and a businessman, who is a top fundraiser for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, were arrested on federal corruption charges including the exchange of lavish gifts for favors. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
US Attorney Southern District of New York Preet Bharara speaks at the Wall Street Journal CEO council annual meeting in Washington on November 15, 2016. / AFP / YURI GRIPAS (Photo credit should read YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 30: Preet Bharara, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, arrives at Trump Tower on November 30, 2016 in New York City. President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling cabinet and other high level positions for the new administration. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 17: Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks at a news conference where it was announced that two former pharmaceutical executives are facing federal criminal charges over a fraud and kickback scheme on November 17, 2016 in New York City. Former Philidor Rx Services CEO Andrew Davenport and former Valeant executive Gary Tanner were charged Thursday with wire fraud, money laundering and other charges in which prosecutors say they made millions of dollars illegally. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks during a press conference in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016. A former portfolio manager who was responsible for investing more than $53 billion in New York State employee retirement funds took more than $100,000 in bribes in exchange for steering more than $2 billion in pension business to two brokers, earning them and their firms millions of dollars in commissions, authorities said on Wednesday. Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks during a press conference in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016. A former portfolio manager who was responsible for investing more than $53 billion in New York State employee retirement funds took more than $100,000 in bribes in exchange for steering more than $2 billion in pension business to two brokers, earning them and their firms millions of dollars in commissions, authorities said on Wednesday. Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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"They're unusual phone calls and it sort of — when I've been reading the stories of how the president has been contacting Jim Comey over time, felt a little bit like deja vu," Bharara said.

The former US attorney for the Southern District of New York also said Trump called him again the day before firing Bharara and 45 US attorneys, but Bharara said he felt that it would be inappropriate to return the call, and reported to the attorney general's office that Trump was "trying to cultivate some kind of relationship."

Bharara explained that he and the other US attorneys sought to have "some kind of arm's length relationship" with the president in order to stay impartial in the event they investigated interests related to Trump. Bharara also pointed out that during his presidency, President Barack Obama never called him.

"I'm not saying that he was going to ask me about a case, although there was some evidence in the record now that after a period of time, given the Jim Comey testimony, there's some evidence that Donald Trump didn't think anything of asking a high level law enforcement official to take a particular action that he wanted for himself on a criminal case," Bharara said.

He pointed out that Trump frequently blasted former President Bill Clinton for meeting with former Attorney General Loretta Lynch at an airport last year, which raised questions about Lynch's ability to remain impartial in investigating Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server:

"For the same reasons that Donald Trump emphasized how it looked when there was that tarmac incident, and you had a private conversation between someone who had an interest in an investigation and the person who was responsible for advancing or ending that investigation, it's a very weird and peculiar thing for a one-on-one conversation without the attorney general, without warning between the president and me or any United States attorney who has been asked to investigate various things and is in a position hypothetically to investigate business interests and associates of the president."

Trump's decision to fire Bharara earlier this year raised eyebrows, as many critics pointed out that Trump originally asked the US attorney to stay on. Bharara was also investigating a number of high-profile cases at the time he was fired, including Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price's stock trades.


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