Friend picked to re­place fired U.S. at­tor­ney in N.Y.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Jake Pear­son

Preet Bharara, the high-profile fed­eral prose­cu­tor who was fired by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion af­ter re­fus­ing to re­sign, has been re­placed tem­po­rar­ily by a long­time friend and top ad­viser.

Joon H. Kim, 45, who had pre­vi­ously served as Bharara’s chief coun­sel, crim­i­nal divi­sion head and top deputy, will be act­ing U.S. at­tor­ney in the South­ern Dis­trict of New York un­til Trump nom­i­nates a can­di­date for the job who can be con­firmed by the Sen­ate. That process could take months.

In the mean­time, Kim, the son of a South Korean diplo­mat who came up through the ranks of the U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice in Man­hat­tan pros­e­cut­ing or­ga­nized crime and ter­ror­ism cases with his old boss, isn’t likely to stop pur­su­ing the kinds of cases that have made the Man­hat­tan prose­cu­tor’s of­fice known for its reach and breadth, for­mer col­leagues say.

“I think things will con­tinue to hum along,” said Lev Dassin, who served as act­ing U.S. at­tor­ney in Man­hat­tan for eight months be­gin­ning in De­cem­ber 2008 af­ter Michael Gar­cia re­signed.

Kim’s pro­mo­tion comes af­ter a pub­lic con­fronta­tion be­tween the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and Bharara, 48, who was asked to re­sign last week with 45 other pros­e­cu­tors ap­pointed dur­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion. Bharara had said in Novem­ber that Trump assured him that the job was his to keep.

A spokesman for the prose­cu­tor’s of­fice didn’t re­spond to a re­quest for an in­ter­view.

Kim’s for­mer col­leagues said there was no rea­son to be­lieve he would pur­sue ex­ist­ing cases any dif­fer­ently fol­low­ing Bharara’s high-profile de­par­ture.

“The nice thing here is that Preet and Joon have been work­ing to­gether for quite a while,” said Jen­nifer Rodgers, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for the Ad­vance­ment of Pub­lic In­tegrity at Columbia Law School. Rodgers once worked with Kim on a case against Peter J. Gotti, a son of the late Gam­bino crime boss John Gotti Jr.

Sharp and self-dep­re­cat­ing, Kim puts peo­ple at ease with a reg­u­lar-guy look and abil­ity to ex­plain even the most com­plex of is­sues in ev­ery­man terms, col­leagues say.

“He is one of the fun­ni­est guys I’ve ever met in my life,” said Michael McGovern, who tried a host of cases against the Gam­bi­nos with Kim, in­clud­ing two hung-jury cases against John Gotti Jr.

“Even in the tough­est of cases, when ei­ther at the end of the day or while the jury is de­lib­er­at­ing, we’re sit­ting there in the trial room, some­times late into the evening, he’d have me just bent over laugh­ing,” McGovern said.

In 2009, when South Korea re­formed its ju­di­cial sys­tem, the coun­try asked Kim to come and train its pros­e­cu­tors, said Vic­tor Hou, who worked with Kim both in gov­ern­ment and pri­vate prac­tice.

A grad­u­ate of Phillips Exeter Academy, Stan­ford and Har­vard Law School, Kim worked in the fed­eral prose­cu­tor’s of­fice from 2000 to 2006 be­fore he joined the Man­hat­tan firm Cleary Got­tlieb, where he helped de­fend Citibank against charges of ma­nip­u­lat­ing in­ter­est rates.

In 2013, Bharara brought him back as his chief coun­sel, de­scrib­ing him in a memo to staff as “an in­cred­i­bly ex­act­ing lawyer with unerring judg­ment.”

On Mon­day, as dozens of lawyers in the U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice in down­town Man­hat­tan gath­ered out­side to bid him farewell, Bharara turned to Kim and em­braced him be­fore head­ing back into the of­fice for the last time.

AP 2015

Preet Bharara, for­mer U.S. at­tor­ney for the South­ern Dis­trict of New York, will be tem­po­rar­ily re­placed by friend Joon H. Kim.

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