The departure of Preet Bharara from the U.S. Attorney's office reminds me of another similar situation back in 1969.
Robert Morgenthau was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, appointed originally by his friend, President Jack Kennedy. When Richard Nixon became president, although he had the power to replace Morgenthau, the feder...al prosecutor said he wouldn't leave. And Nixon didn't challenge him at first.
For 11 months, Morgenthau hung on to the job, refusing to vacate the office, carrying on his duties as before. I remember calling Morgenthau as a furor developed in the newspapers about whether he would continue to resist the White House. "I'm not leaving," he told me, as I remember it, "I have too much work still to do."
Finally, Morgenthau agreed to leave, effective January 15, 1970. Four years later, after the Watergate scandal, Nixon resigned. Morgenthau was elected New York District Attorney and served in that job from 1975 to 2009.
What I remember most about that era was how tough and calm Morgenthau was as he refused to be politically evicted. Many times, I called him to see whether pressure from Washington had finally made him decide to quit. I concluded finally that he was a stubborn so and so----he just wouldn't budge. He amazed me. And I guess he amazed the Nixon White House too.
When I spoke to him today, the former U.S, Attorney said he understood the fact that a new administration had the right to put its own people into place. "But I am concerned," the former prosecutor said, that the office of U.S. Attorney doesn't become a "political football."
As a young naval officer in World War II, he survived after his ship was torpedoed, and, serving on another ship he was often under attack, but managed to live through it. Were these incidents a metaphor for the rest of his life? Morgenthau said that, if anything, his brushes with death inspired him "to do something useful for the rest of my life."
By: Gabe Pressman, Senior Correspondent at NBC New York