Preet Bharara made pointed jokes about President Donald Trump in his first public speech since he was fired as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Bharara opened his speech by comparing the size of the audience in The Great Hall at Cooper Union to that of Barack Obama's in 2010.
In an interview with The New York Times published ahead of his remarks, Bharara said his "out of the blue" removal was a "a direct example of the kind of uncertain helter-skelter incompetence" that has become a hallmark of Donald Trump's young presidency.
In March, the Justice Department asked Bharara and 45 other federal prosecutors appointed by Barack Obama to resign. Bharara was subsequently fired by the Trump administration's Justice Department after he refused.
@PreetBharara: I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired. Being the US Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life.
The order itself was not unprecedented as U.S. attorneys are political appointees, serving at the pleasure of the president. Bharara's firing, however, came as a surprise as he had told reporters that he had agreed with then President-elect Trump to remain in his role.
Bharara told the Times that he still has not been told why he was ousted.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters in March that it wasn't relevant whether or not Trump told Bharara he would keep his job. He added that Trump called Bharara to "thank him for his service."
Bharara and his office were known for their successful prosecutions of Wall Street titans, extracting billion-dollar settlements in some instances. Under his prolific tenure, the office pursued a slew of public corruption, trafficking and terrorism cases.
Billionaire Republican Ken Langone said the former U.S. attorney had done a "fabulous job," adding that he hoped Bharara would run for office.
But not everyone exalted Bharara's career. Closely followed banking analyst Dick Bove told CNBC that Bharara "should be hung by his heels."
A longtime defender of the banking industry, Bove said he didn't approve of Bharara' methods. He said Bharara and his office were part of a government determined to punish the banks. Bove said they used an unfair process, pressuring the banks to settle.
Earlier this month, the former U.S. attorney joined New York University's law school as a distinguished scholar in residence.