NEW YORK — A fired federal prosecutor returned to his office on Monday to say his goodbyes and tell the staff of one of the highest-profile groups of prosecutors in the nation to keep up their good work.
Preet Bharara's return came two days after he was fired after refusing to submit his resignation along with 45 other appointees of Democratic former President Barack Obama who were asked to step down Friday.
Inside the Manhattan building, Bharara spoke to dozens of employees who had worked for him since his summer 2009 appointment to an office that has proved to be a hotbed of future leaders in government and the law. He told them that he hoped his children would grow up with the moral code and character of those who inhabit the office and that the workers would continue the quality of work they had done for generations, according to several people who heard him speak.
The workers later formed parallel rows behind barricades outside the building before Bharara, wearing only a suit in freezing temperatures, walked through the column to steady applause, shaking hands and hugging employees.
A small group of reporters approached him, and he was asked if he had a message for Republican President Donald Trump. It was unclear if he heard the question.
"I love New York. And this is the best, the best prosecutor's office you've ever seen," the misty eyed prosecutor said, pointing toward the workers as he headed back their way.
The request to resign from the office of Attorney General Jeff Sessions came as a surprise to federal prosecutors after Bharara had been asked by Trump and Sessions during a meeting at Trump Tower in late November to continue his work.
But the firing of prosecutors appointed by previous presidents is common when a new administration takes over, though it does not always occur abruptly before new prosecutors can be put in place.
Some legal observers have suggested that Bharara may have been responsible for overseeing probes that touched on the Trump administration, including how the Russians might have tried to affect last year's presidential election.
Bharara, after announcing his firing on his Twitter account on Saturday, sent a tweet Sunday saying: "By the way, now I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like."
In 2013, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo formed the Moreland Commission to investigate public corruption, but then in 2014 he abruptly shut it down.
After Bharara's walk outside Monday, he greeted his deputies, including Deputy U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim, who will serve as acting U.S. attorney, at the building's front door.
Larry Neumeister, The Associated Press