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Competition winner:
President Trump Calling: Accept or Decline?

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This case series won the Outstanding Case Writer Competition at The Case Centre Awards and Competitions 2019.
The case

Preet BhararaWho – the protagonist

Preet Bharara, US attorney for the Southern District of New York.


US attorneys are presidential appointees, subject to Senate approval, who cover 94 judicial districts. Each attorney has a team of professional legal staff and they typically serve a four-year stint to correspond with the term of the president who appointed them.

Preet served for eight years under the Obama Administration, with his area covering New York and the Bronx and six other counties.


Preet loved his job and was pleasantly surprised to be personally asked by President Trump to stay in his position – something of an unusual step for a newly-elected President to take.

Even more unusual was Trump personally calling Preet, especially without including, or at least informing, the attorney general, the country’s chief law enforcement officer.

Preet was proud of his office’s reputation for professional independence and probity, but Trump’s interference threatened that.


Preet was responsible for the Big Apple and its surrounding counties.


The dreaded phone call arrived on 9 March 2017.

Key quote

“I’m not thinking about what comes after. Because whatever happens in my life, it’s not going to be as great and exciting as this job.” – Preet Bharara, when asked about future plans in 2016.

white houseWhat next?

Preet had to decide whether or not to return the call from the White House.

He knew the fallout that can ensue when prosecutors’ independence is questioned, but prior phone conversations with President-elect Trump were entirely appropriate.

Preet had one hell of a decision to make.

Interested in finding out more?

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President Trump Calling: Accept or Decline?
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The authors

authorsKarthik Ramanna, Vidhya Muthuram and Sarah McAra

Karthik talks about the hot topic of President Donald Trump and how this case has helped prepare future politicians.

Powerful discussion

Karthik said: “As you can imagine, people have strong feelings about President Trump, one way or another. So, the case generates a lot of debate in the classroom.

“The instructor’s role is to channel that debate into constructive learning, on issues such as the line between personal values and professional duties.

“Past teachings have shown that on the key decision — whether or not to return President Trump’s phone call — participants are about evenly split at the beginning of class. Over the course of the discussion, several participants usually change their minds, and their journey of self-discovery often also serves as a valuable learning experience for the entire class.”

Keeping on the right track

Karthik added: “The instructor’s task is to harness the emotions that are inevitably generated from a conversation on President Trump’s leadership style, into opportunities for participants to reflect on their own leadership approaches under pressure. So long as we can do that, the setting is not a distraction.”

Talking politics

Talking politics

He commented: “The Master of Public Policy programme at Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government draws candidates from over 100 countries, representing all forms of government.

“There is a strong desire amongst our student body to explore ways in which we can foster organisational and individual integrity in governments. This is an ideal case for such an exploration.”

Real world impact

He explained: “The setting is so vivid, and the judgments so varied, that this case lingers in participants’ minds.

Karthik Ramanna at work“We taught this case in an executive programme for aspiring national politicians in Brazil. Months later, I ran into a family member of one of the Brazilian participants, who had just been elected to the Brazilian Congress.

“This case was one of the first things that the family member brought up, because they had been discussing the scenario through the campaign. It’s these continued conversations that allow the case to have real impact.”

Best of both worlds

Karthik concluded: “The scenario outlined here represents a fairly common occurrence, where people have to make quick decisions, with limited information, under a lot of pressure.

“The case was developed largely from published sources, but it relied on interviews with the protagonist, Preet Bharara, to provide context and emotion to the scenes.

“We used these interviews to understand his state of mind, apprehensions about the call, and his decision-making process.”

About the authors

Karthik Ramanna is Professor of Business and Public Policy, Director of the MPP Programme, and Director of the Case Centre for Public Leadership at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford.
e karthik.ramanna@bsg.ox.ac.uk

Vidhya Muthuram is a Senior Case Writer at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford.
e vidhya.muthuram@bsg.ox.ac.uk

Sarah McAra is a Senior Case Writer at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford.
e sarah.mcara@bsg.ox.ac.uk


View all the 2019 winners