Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who was removed from his post by the Trump administration on March 11, was overseeing an investigation into stock trades made by the president’s health secretary, according to a person familiar with the office.
According to reports, Tom Price, head of the Department of Health and Human Services, came under scrutiny during his confirmation hearings for investments he made while serving in Congress. The Georgia lawmaker traded hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of shares in health-related companies, even as he voted on and sponsored legislation affecting the industry.
Price testified at the time that his trades were lawful and transparent. Democrats accused him of potentially using his office to enrich himself. One lawmaker called for an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, citing concerns Price could have violated the STOCK Act, a 2012 law signed by President Obama that clarified that members of Congress cannot use nonpublic information for profit and requires them to promptly disclose their trades.
The investigation of Price’s trades by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which hasn’t been previously disclosed, was underway at the time of Bharara’s dismissal, someone familiar with the investigation was reported to have said.
Asked about this report during an appearance today on ABC News’ “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” Tom Price said he and his lawyers haven’t received any indication of a federal investigation into his stock trades. “I know nothing about that whatsoever,” Price said.
In December, the Wall Street Journal reported that Price traded more than $300,000 worth of shares in health companies over a recent four-year period, while taking actions that could have affected those companies. Price, an orthopedic surgeon, chaired the powerful House Budget Committee and sat on the Ways and Means Committee’s health panel.
Bharara was one of 46 U.S. attorneys asked to resign after Trump took office. It is standard for new presidents to replace those officials with their own appointees. But Bharara’s firing came as a surprise because the president had met with him at Trump Tower soon after the election. As he left that meeting, Bharara told reporters Trump asked if he would be prepared to remain in his post, and said that he had agreed to stay on.
When the Trump administration instead asked for Bharara’s resignation, the prosecutor refused, and he said he was then fired. Trump has not explained the reversal, but Bharara fanned suspicions that his dismissal was politically motivated via his personal Twitter account.
Along with the Price matter, Bharara’s former office is investigating allegations relating to Fox News, and has been urged by watchdog groups to look into payments Trump has received from foreign governments through his Manhattan-based business. Bharara’s former deputy, Joon Kim, is now in charge of the office, but Trump is expected to nominate his replacement.
The crusading prosecutor – dubbed the “sheriff of Wall Street” – was the only Indian American U.S. attorney in the nation. Acting deputy Attorney General Dana Boente had called US Attorney Preet Bharara and told him President Trump was firing him, hours after he announced he would not resign under the guidance of a directive issued a day earlier by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Responding to his firing, the crusader on corruption, said, “By the way,” Bharara said in a second tweet, “now I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like.” Bharara was referring to a commission that was launched by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2013 to investigate state government corruption, only to be disbanded by the governor the next year as its work grew close to his office. “I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired. Being the U.S. Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life no matter what else I do or how long I live,” Bharara tweeted mid-morning March 11. “One hallmark of justice is absolute independence, and that was my touchstone every day that I served,” Bharara said.