Once upon a time, Preet Bharara, the former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, wanted to follow in the professional footsteps of Rod Rosenstein, the embattled deputy attorney general. Before he started his current job last year, Rosenstein was the US Attorney for the District of Maryland. He had been appointed by President George W. Bush, and then reappointed to the position by President Barrack Obama.
That’s the same neat trick that Bharara was also hoping to pull off. Appointed by Obama in 2009, Bharara just wanted to keep his job under the new president, Donald Trump. Bharara came close to getting his wish. Prior to his inauguration, Trump conveyed to Bharara—through Senator Chuck Schumer—that he could remain the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Bharara was both “surprised” and “flattered,” he later said, by his good fortune. But two months into his presidency, Trump had a change of heart. His efforts to jolly Bharara, who had prosecutorial jurisdiction over many parts of Trump’s business empire, into some sort of informal friendship weren’t working. On March 11, 2017, along with 45 other US Attorneys, Bharara was asked to resign.
At first, Bharara thought maybe a mistake had been made, since Trump had asked him to stay on; he didn’t submit his letter of resignation. “He had asked me to stay,” he said. “He should ask me to go.” And that’s exactly what Trump did. He fired Bharara. “I did not resign,” Bharara tweeted. “Moments ago I was fired.” He finished the Vietnamese spring rolls he had ordered for lunch that day and walked out of his Saint Andrews Plaza eighth-floor office for good.
And thus was born the powerful myth of Preet Bharara, martyred US Attorney. He is more in demand, and more accessible than ever before (although he did not respond to my request for an interview). He is writing a book, to be published next year by Knopf, about the “search for justice.” Taking a page, no doubt, from former FBI director James Comey’s playbook, he has said his book would be about “integrity, leadership, decision making and moral reasoning.” Bharara is a distinguished scholar in residence at New York University School of Law. His weekly podcast, Stay Tuned, is the most popular in New York State, according to SimpleTexting, and he has interviewed guests such as Leon Panetta, Bill Browder, and Maggie Haberman. He has a gig at CNN as a senior legal analyst. He’s a prodigious tweeter—often with an air of moral superiority—to his 817,000 followers, up from around 6,000 when we last spoke, in 2015. His pinned tweet: “Citizens working together are more powerful than US Attorneys. And presidents.” His business venture CAFE, started in conjunction with Some Spider Studios (a media company co-founded by Bharara’s brother, Vinit, who sold his online company to Amazon for around $545 million), includes his podcast as well as the CAFE Change Summit, a daylong conference held in April that brought together aspiring young “change-makers” with an older group of people who have already made it. In June, he gave the commencement address at the St. John’s University School of Law.