Preet Bharara: Hey Insiders. A couple of weeks ago we held a Town Call for a batch of randomly-selected CAFE Insiders. This is a special feature where members of the Insider community can ask me questions directly. Hundreds of you came with questions about Epstein, the rule of law, the 2020 election, my favorite lawyer joke, and even weighed in on where I should go for my next family vacation.
Preet Bharara: So, we’re sharing this call with you today. We’ll be sending out an email to announce the next Town Call so keep an eye out for that in the coming weeks.
Preet Bharara: One last programing note. Next week, in honor of Labor Day, we’ll bring you our regularly scheduled insider episode on Tuesday September 3rd. Thanks for being a member of the Insider community and enjoy the Town Call.
Preet Bharara: Hey folks, it’s Preet here. I hope and trust that you can all hear me. Thanks for joining us on this Wednesday afternoon. I’m sitting in the CAFE offices in the great city of New York, in Manhattan, awaiting a downpour from the heavens. Hopefully that will not happen before we finish today.
Preet Bharara: It’s an exciting thing to have a Town Call with all of you. A lot of news. I could essentially call this The Jeffrey Epstein Show because there are so many questions about him, his case, his suicide. I’ll do a few of those and then talk about some other things that you folks are asking about.
Preet Bharara: Before I do that though, I do have some exciting news for those of you who are fans of my podcast Stay Tuned. We’re going on the road this fall to a number of cities. We’re confirming three cities.
Preet Bharara: We’ll be in Denver on October 24th, with someone that hopefully many of you are familiar with, Shannon Watts, who’s a gun reform activist and founder of Moms Demand Action. On November 12th we’ll be in Detroit with Dana Nessel, who is Michigan’s 54th Attorney General. And then my friend, long-time friend and former colleague, Sally Yates, finally will be a guest on the show, for a live show in her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. And that’s on December 4th 2019.
Preet Bharara: So, when you’re done with the call, not now, wait to hear the call, go to cafe.com/tour to find tickets, if you’re going to be in any of those cities during those times. A lot of fun when we go on the road, hopefully you’ll join us.
Preet Bharara: I guess we should start with some Epstein questions. This question is from Jennifer who says, “While I understand that Epstein’s co-conspirators can be investigated and charged, how likely is that without Epstein’s testimony?”
Preet Bharara: Well, that’s an interesting question, and it goes fundamentally to how all cases are benefited but sometimes don’t need to be benefited by cooperator testimony. The assumption in that question, which is a reasonable one and a good one, is that Epstein would flip. Now, there’s a good reason to think that he might have, had he not taken his own life, because he was facing probably life in prison, the prospect of dying naturally in prison, and maybe he had good information about other people.
Preet Bharara: The one thing to bear in mind though is it’s not always a good idea for prosecutors to allow someone to cooperate if they are the top of the food chain. So, to the extent he had co-conspirators, depending on what the culpability of what other people might be, it might not have been seen as just or fair to use his cooperating testimony against other folks. It’s as best a guess as to whether or not he would have flipped, and whether or not his flipping would have been useful to folks. Often there’s sufficient evidence otherwise.
Preet Bharara: It seems like there are a trail of documents, it seems like there are other witnesses. And as I’ve said a couple of times already, the fact that the current United States Attorney Jeffrey Burman made the point, went out of his way to say, “We’re still fighting for the victims and we’re still investigating the case,” suggests to me that there’s a really good likelihood that they’re thinking charges will be forthcoming as to other folks. So, thanks for that question.
Preet Bharara: There’s a related question from Anna, who asks, “Can all the evidence that was gathered re Epstein now be used against his accused co-conspirators, even though he’s not around to authenticate it and provide testimony?”
Preet Bharara: As Anne and I talked about, something that people may not fully appreciate, the non-lawyers especially, is when you gather evidence from somebody pursuant to a search warrant or other court-authorized, the person from who you gather that evidence, whether you search devices or you search your home or you search their safe deposit box, they have a right to attack that process. They have a right to move to suppress that evidence. And often it doesn’t succeed, depending on what the circumstances were, sometimes it can succeed.
Preet Bharara: But the benefit for the prosecutors in this case is the person who has standing almost exclusively to challenge the fruits of that search, or suppress the fruits of that search, is the person whose property was searched. In this case, that’s Epstein. He’s no longer around obviously to challenge that evidence-gathering process, and so that evidence can be used against other people.
Preet Bharara: The subset, without making this an evidence class, a law school evidence class, on the issue of authentication. That’s a complicated issue and lots and lots of documents including bank records and certain kinds of testimony are authenticated, not through the testimony of someone like Jeffrey Epstein, but by other means. So, I expect that if there are charges against other people you will see folks in the US Attorneys Office using this other evidence that was gathered against Epstein as well.
Preet Bharara: I’m trying to think of actually another Epstein question before moving onto something more fun. Here’s a general question against investigations, which I think confuses people. The degree to transparency that we have with respect to prosecutors investigations, not only in SDNY but everywhere in the country and in the world.
Preet Bharara: This comes from Barbara who says, “Hi Preet. We hear about so many investigations, but little info on ongoing status of them. Is there any way we can learn updates on ongoing SDNY investigations? Thanks, Barbara.”
Preet Bharara: Well, no. People who are conducting investigations do them in secret. The most secret aspect of any federal criminal investigation is obviously what transpires before the Grand Jury. There are Grand Jury secrecy laws. We’ve been hearing about them in connection with the Mueller investigation and all sorts of things. Congress even is having a hard time and has to go to court to fight to get what’s known as 6E materials, Grand Jury materials, even for the purposes of looking into their inquiries and furthering their potential impeachment process.
Preet Bharara: So, prosecutors generally don’t like to give updates on ongoing investigations for a lot of reasons, depending on what the nature of the update would be. They don’t want the bad guys to run away if they don’t know they’re under investigation. They don’t want evidence to evaporate or be destroyed. They don’t want witnesses in cases to get together, collaborate and, dare I say it, collude on what their testimony is going to be and shape it in ways that’s false. And also it’s a little bit not fair to potential targets to be giving updates on investigations.
Preet Bharara: Now, obviously there are exceptions to that and there are certain things that prosecutors can do. For example, most recently we see in the case of a mass shooting. There’s a huge public interest in there being updates, especially in the initial moments, hours, and days, as to what the nature of the crime was, the motivation for the crime, whether or not the person was acting alone or in concert with other people, because people need to understand that their communities are safe, who’s working together, federal law enforcement, local law enforcement, what the charges may be, if there might be additional charges, if there are co-conspirators or aiders and abetters who are going to be charged. Those kinds of things are natural, obvious, and there should be updates on them.
Preet Bharara: With respect to the Epstein investigation, as I just mentioned a couple of minutes ago, the US Attorney Jeff Burman in SDNY made it a point to not give a lot of detail but to say, in a way that I think was reassuring to the public, that they’re continuing to look at misconduct on the part of other people, that victims should continue to come forward. So, there are ways that are I think okay, justified, appropriate and ethical at giving updates.
Preet Bharara: But generally speaking, when we were conducting long-term, complex investigations of political figures or others, we were not in the habit of, nor would it have been appropriate, to come forward and say, “Well, now we’ve interviewed these other witnesses,” or, “We’ve engaged in this other process. Stay tuned.” Stay tuned is something that you can say in a very general matter, but you got to be careful about giving those kinds of updates as you go along.
Preet Bharara: Here’s a question from Will, sort of a political question, and Will asks, “Why has political affiliation become the core identity of so many Americans.” Well, that’s a very interesting question. And not to quibble with the premise of the question, but let me do that for a moment.
Preet Bharara: I think a lot of people care about their political affiliation, Democrat, Republican, Independent, whatever else. I think however in the current time I’m not sure how meaningful a description political affiliation, especially for people who used to be Republicans.
Preet Bharara: There are lots and lots of Republicans, not folks who are in office, who worry about being lambasted and ridiculed and criticized and attacked by the head of the GOP, the current President, Donald Trump, by other people, many of whom have been on the Stay Tuned podcast. People like George Will and David Frum and Max Boot and others, who are pretty rock rib conservatives over time and have decided they can no longer be part of the party.
Preet Bharara: So, for people like that political affiliation has become I think less important than other values that they care about with respect to the country. So, I don’t know that that’s true.
Preet Bharara: Another thing that strikes me about the question as I think aloud, going back to what George Will said, is I don’t know why political affiliation has become so important for a lot of people but maybe that’s a mistake. And you can take two points of view on this, and I’ve struggled with this issue myself. On the one hand, you don’t want to be consumed by politics, you don’t want to be consumed by elections.
Preet Bharara: You want to enjoy other things. You want to enjoy good food, you want to enjoy your family. You want to enjoy sports, entertainment, theater. I mean, a lot of people are reading fewer books than they used to read before Trump got elected and a lot of people have told me that. And maybe some of you are sitting in front of your computers or on the phone and you’re nodding with respect to that. Think of how much entertainment you consumed before this crazy, dominant figure Donald Trump became the President of the United States.
Preet Bharara: So, on the one hand, it seems you don’t want to be consumed by political affiliation and that is not your identity because you’re a living, breathing, working person with families and friends and work aspirations and artistic aspirations and so you want to be more than politics. And George Will says this. George Will says, “Politics should be some small part of your life.”
Preet Bharara: On the other hand, and this is why I struggle with the tension, on the other hand it’s a very difficult time. And you almost think if you’re a living, breathing person in the world, whatever your aspirations are, you have to care about your country.
Preet Bharara: And if you’re someone, maybe some folks on the call, maybe many people on the call, but I’ll tell you this is true for me and it’s not just because I have two podcasts and I am a commentator on CNN and so part of my job is to focus on politics and on the law and on what’s happening in the government and the world, but I care about the country.
Preet Bharara: And I care deeply about what Donald Trump is doing to the country and what he’s doing to the institutions of the country. And so I can’t help but feel more associated with politics in the sense that I think it’s important for Donald Trump not to be reelected than I ever have before.
Preet Bharara: Seven and a half years as the United States Attorney, I was essentially an apolitical person, professionally and otherwise. We prosecuted Democrats and Republicans. I’ve often joked that the best way to describe federal prosecutors are there’s three political parties in the country, there’s Democrat, Republican, and federal prosecutor. The point of which is that in that job, and you worry about this these days a little bit, in that job there is no space for political affiliation.
Preet Bharara: Now, as a private citizen, and as someone who’s seeing all sorts of norms being trampled, I think a lot about politics and political affiliation. And I want people, to the extent I can help persuade them, to affiliate with whoever is in a position to curb the excesses of Donald Trump, to curb the abuses of Donald Trump. In fact, end the term of Donald Trump in the next election.
Preet Bharara: But it’s an interesting question and I think current times render things a little bit topsy turvy.
Preet Bharara: Let’s see. Maybe something light. We got a lighter question? Here’s a personal lighter question. Dennis asks, “What’s the next vacation you want to go on?”
Preet Bharara: Vacations are good. I never used to take vacations very much when I was in government for 17 years. I have a little bit more time, and I have a little bit more resources, so I’ve been going on family vacations on a regular basis since I left office. And so there’s actually an ongoing debate, to the extent this is interesting to anyone, there’s an ongoing debate in my household about the next big vacation. And the next opportunity is around Christmastime.
Preet Bharara: So maybe we’ll take a brief pause from these podcasts, sorry in advance, because the kids have some time off during that period and my daughter will be in college and she’ll have a good amount of time off. And so I’m thinking, “What’s the big family trip?” And maybe you guys can vote and help us decide.
Preet Bharara: But the internal Bharara family debate is over the following big three trips.
Preet Bharara: Choice number one, Israel, where I’ve never been. And it would be fascinating to go there for a lot of reasons. My wife is Jewish and her mother goes on a regular basis. We have never been. So, that’s choice number one.
Preet Bharara: Choice number two is the country of my birth, India, which I have not been to in a while. I was there for a business trip in the last year of my time as US Attorney and talked about terrorism with law enforcement officials and national security officials in India. And the time before that was 19 years ago. Amazing place, fascinating place. It’s hard to travel a lot when your kids are young so we’ve never made it before.
Preet Bharara: There was a brief period in between where I don’t think I was particularly welcome in India. If you’re wondering why that is, there’s a particular chapter in my book you should read called Bollywood. And you need a little bit of time to go that distance, it’s a long trip. But I’d love for my kids to see where their dad was born and learn a little bit more about their heritage and culture.
Preet Bharara: And then third, and it’s really hard to choose among these, African safari. Everyone I’ve ever met who has gone on an African safari, wherever in Africa they go, and get to see the animals and understand and appreciate nature a little bit more, has said it’s the best vacation they’ve ever taken.
Preet Bharara: In an ideal world, over successive, lengthy vacation opportunities, maybe every Christmastime, the Bharara family can go to each of those places. But you never know and circumstances change, so we have to make a big decision about those three. If people have thoughts, maybe we can take a vote and that will be persuasive to some members of my family. I don’t know.
Preet Bharara: What else we got? Stephen asks a question that sends shivers up my spine. “Have you been pondering topics for another book?”
Preet Bharara: No. Actually, yes, and then I stop because writing the book took a lot out of me. Right now, to the extent you’re interested, I am working on the format and potentially a new introduction to the paperwork version of the book, which will be hitting bookshelves as they say, or the Internet, sometime in early 2020.
Preet Bharara: The interesting thing about having written the book, which I complained a lot about during the process, is that when you’re done writing the book and you publish it and you do the publicity tour and it goes pretty well like this has, so thank you all for buying the book if you have and reading it and telling me about how you enjoyed it and what thoughts you got from it, but then you forget how much pain it was and how difficult it was and how many times you’re in the trenches, away from your family, writing the book. And you think, “Well, maybe I have something more to say.”
Preet Bharara: I don’t think there’s any book in the offing for me in the immediate future, but I’m thinking about it.
Preet Bharara: Here’s another personal question from John. “What’s something you wish you were better at?”
Preet Bharara: Well, probably everything. I wish I was better at everything, including trying to figure out what questions to answer next quickly so you don’t have to wait on me looking at this flood of questions that you’re putting forward during this call. But if I have to answer one thing, not that I wish I was better at it, I just wish I could do it at all, and that’s play a musical instrument.
Preet Bharara: I have the benefit of being in a very musical family. My wife is an accomplished musician. Each of my children play multiple instruments, they’re all passionate about them. My daughter is a very passionate classical music lover and plays the viola in lots of different capacities and will be continuing to do that in college. And so all around me, everyone in my family reads music, understands music, can play an instrument, in many cases more than one instrument. I can do none of that.
Preet Bharara: When I was 10 years old, for about six months I played the trombone. That did not go very well. It’s also an odd choice for a 10-year-old with short arms to decide to play the trombone. So, that’s what I wish I was better at.
Preet Bharara: Let’s see. “Would you ever have your parents on as guests?” asks Ted.
Preet Bharara: No. Because I would be very horrified at the kinds of things they might reveal about me, especially when I was a kid. This is a one-way relationship. I talk about my parents, and they don’t get to talk about me.
Preet Bharara: this is from Lara Ellen. “How did you and Anne meet? Your rapport is lovely. I adore your banter together and wonder how the podcast came about. Do you have plans to do any live events together, or are your live events only going to be Stay Tuned branded?”
Preet Bharara: Great question. Anne’s not with me here today, but I’ll pass along your compliment.
Preet Bharara: Anne and I met through our time in the Senate. It was 2005 and I had just come to work for Senator Schumer as his chief counsel, and a mutual friend of mine and Anne’s said, “You guys should introduce yourselves to each other because you have similar backgrounds. Both have been prosecutors. New to Washington. New to the political sphere, new to Congress.” And that we were like-minded folks.
Preet Bharara: And we met for a drink. Two people in a weird town where we didn’t love how people went about the business of politics, we were more rule of law kind of people. And we hit it off famously. I think the first time we hung out, we hung out for hours together and we’ve been good friends ever since and now we’re both teaching at NYU Law School together and maintained our friendship over a number of years. So, going back about 14 years.
Preet Bharara: And how did the podcast come about? It just occurred to us one day that if I were going to do a second podcast and talk about these legal issues I could do it alone, I could do it with various people, we could come up with a format that made sense.
Preet Bharara: And I thought to myself, “What better way of doing something that we were thinking about calling the Insider Podcast than having someone who is smarter than you, more articulate than you, but has a similar background but a different approach and slightly different expertise.” As I think people have come to appreciate when Anne talks about sex trafficking and the exploitation of young people, which has been one of her areas of emphasis as a prosecutor passionately for years and years. And then we have fun.
Preet Bharara: Sometimes people ask, and I think there are a couple of questions about advice I might offer to people in their careers. I could go do other things.
Preet Bharara: I could go to a law firm, which basically every one of their predecessors at the SDNY has done, has gone to a big lawn firm, and I still could do that at some point. But my thought in life is, because life is short, do things you enjoy.
Preet Bharara: And one way to do something you enjoy is to do with people you enjoy and people you have fun with. I mean, I think I wrote in the newsletter note about one of the most amazing things about being in the Southern District was not just the opportunity to serve the public, not just the opportunity to do good and make the community safer. That’s all central and was essential to the choice that people made to go there, because they believe in public service. But it was also an incredibly fun place with incredibly deep feelings of camaraderie.
Preet Bharara: And so in life, I think I also say this in the book, if you have the chance to work with people that you adore and respect and love as friends, you’ll be happier and the product you put out will be better. I think that’s always true.
Preet Bharara: “What do you think of law school as a pathway to elected office?” asks Alex.
Preet Bharara: I mean, a lot of people who decide to become politicians become lawmakers if they’re in a legislature, and so law school is helpful but not necessary. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that we have too many lawyers who go into politics, not enough doctors. It’s an anomaly when you hear about someone like Rand Paul, whether you like him or not, going into politics and becoming a member of the Senate or the House. So, I think we need lots of different kinds of people from lots of different vocations and jobs and occupations going into politics.
Preet Bharara: By the way, it’s an interesting thing that even in the Senate Judiciary Committee there are incredibly prominent members who themselves are not lawyers. Chuck Grassley, who for a time was the chairman, not a lawyer. Dianne Feinstein, for whom I have a great respect and has been the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee for a period of time, also not a lawyer. So, you can do a good job serving your country in politics, and even in a lawmaker capacity, without having gone to law school.
Preet Bharara: But of course when you get to those lawmaker jobs you better educate yourself. Don’t need to go to law school, but you better make sure you understand how these kinds of things work.
Preet Bharara: This is a question, oh, sort of following on the heels of my announcement at the beginning of this call. “Hi Preet. I’ve got my tickets for Atlanta and cannot wait. Do you intend to endorse a 2020 US Presidential Candidate. Britt, from Atlanta, Georgia.”
Preet Bharara: Thanks for getting those tickets. It’s going to be great I think. Sally and I have been friends for a long time. She was a US Attorney in Georgia when I was US Attorney in the Southern District. We served on various committees together, including the Attorney General Advisory Committee, and she’s great and she will have a lot I think informative things to say. She’s a great student of not just law and the Constitution, but also of ethics and leadership and everything else. So, I’m glad you’re coming.
Preet Bharara: I do not intend to endorse a 2020 US Presidential candidate in the primaries. I will tell you that almost certainly I will endorse whoever the opponent of Donald Trump is, but respect to this field I’m not going to. Because I am not sure who the best person is. That’s why you have the primary process.
Preet Bharara: Also, I have a little bit of a hat as a journalist now doing this podcast. We have had three presidential candidates on the Democratic side seeking the nomination on as guests; Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, and Julian Castro. We have others. Can I tell these folks? I’m looking at my team. Can I tell these folks about the … We have to hope … May I reveal? We hope to have Michael Bennet and I think we have some others which I cannot yet reveal to you. And I think it’s not cool for me to make a decision about who I think is the best nominee while I’m interviewing them and trying to understand what they’re about.
Preet Bharara: I’m actually curious and interested to know when people give feedback or send emails to the show, who you folks like and who you think is going to be good. And I do like the idea that podcasts are a good place for these candidates to get a good look, from people who might not be giving them a good look when they appear on CNN or MSNBC or anywhere for a few minutes because they don’t have a lot of time.
Preet Bharara: Some of the Town Halls on CNN have been very helpful, introducing candidates to the public. I’m not sure how helpful the debates are. I think they’re very difficult when you have that many people. I’m hoping that the September 12th and 13th debates are cut back and you have fewer participants. I don’t have a particular view on the thresholds that have been announced about 130,000 unique donors and 2% in the polls and multiple polls. I leave that to other people. But I do like the idea of not having yet another round of debates where there are 4,000 people on the stage.
Preet Bharara: Let’s see. “What’s the best lawyer joke you have ever heard? Tammy.”
Preet Bharara: I don’t know why I read that question aloud because I don’t know. There’s one that I seem to remember. I think the joke goes what’s the difference between a lawyer and a catfish? And I think the answer is one is a scum-sucking bottom dweller, the other one’s a fish. Nobody’s laughing here. Not that funny. I’ll get some better ones.
Preet Bharara: Aaron. “What news sources do you use most?”
Preet Bharara: Notwithstanding my criticism of the Twitter. That’s not a source of news, it’s a platform from which I get news from other sources. But I do get a lot of news from being on Twitter and scrolling through my feed.
Preet Bharara: I rely on all the major publications. New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post in particular. I also get news from the tabloids in New York. It’s an old habit from when I was in public office and they were covering our cases.
Preet Bharara: There are also other great outlets like Buzzfeed and digital outfits and podcasts.
Preet Bharara: But something I said a long time ago bears repeating, and that is there’s so much misinformation and there’s so much quick scoops on stuff, that the important thing is not necessarily where you get your news from, but that you get your news from multiple sources. I watch multiple cable news channels. On Twitter I follow people who I don’t agree with, some people who are fairly odious, and I will look at articles that they have written.
Preet Bharara: I get news and information from the National Review Online. I don’t agree with a lot of the stuff but I like to know what people are thinking, and in what ways, that people who disagree with my point of view, how are they disagreeing with them. What facts are people I tend to agree with getting wrong? Because people get things wrong when they are in your political wheelhouse as well. So, I think that’s very important, to get news from a variety of sources.
Preet Bharara: Dana asks, “I love the chapter in your book about interrogation. Do members of Congress have coaches when they prep for hearings? Some are great and others are horrible.”
Preet Bharara: I’m not going to talk about which are great and which are horrible. I have not been shy about criticizing the ways that members of Congress ask questions. Some people are really excellent, and the ones who are excellent are the ones who listen to the answers being given and then respond, not based on questions that are written verbatim for them by staff members, but have a deep understanding of the material and then go where the questioning leads them to go.
Preet Bharara: I mean, imagine if on my podcast, when I do interviews on Stay Tuned, that I literally in a regimented way asked in a predetermined order and succession typed-up questions that someone had given me. I have a lot of preparation, I have an amazing team that’s sitting around the table here, that helps me think about the interviews, think about the questions to ask, think about the order. But then when I get in the room with the person, the conversation can sometimes go places where you don’t expect.
Preet Bharara: And so I think that’s a problem with a lot of members of Congress. In fairness to them, they’re really, really busy. Many members of Congress sit on multiple committees, they can’t be experts in everything. And there may be a narrow cast hearing on some point of substance or policy on which they’re not expert, and they have five minutes to ask a question, especially in the House. They have to rely a lot on staff.
Preet Bharara: To the extent you’re asking about coaches. Yeah, look, I played the role most frequently when I was chief counsel to Senator Schumer and we knew there was an important hearing coming up. I actually enjoyed it and relished the opportunity to play the role, to play the role of John Roberts or Sam [Malido 00:28:47], which I got to do during Supreme Court confirmations.
Preet Bharara: I have, can’t reveal, on other occasions in my recent life helped a member of Congress or two think about how to ask questions by playing the role of the witness who’s going to be in the hot seat because I think that’s important to do. And I think good members of Congress and diligent members of Congress, as Senator Schumer used to do when I worked for him years ago, employ that strategy. And you hear about it, particularly in the big-time things like Supreme Court nomination hearings or huge oversight hearings. I think it’s a very good and important thing to do.
Preet Bharara: Oh, so someone is offering, someone’s paying attention and in real-time offering a better lawyer joke. Thanks to Melissa, here’s the joke. “Question. What’s the difference between a porcupine and four lawyers in a convertible? The answer is on the porcupine the pricks are on the outside.”
Preet Bharara: That’s a much better joke, as you’ll hear from the reaction here.
Preet Bharara: Let’s see. Oh, I sort of answered this a little bit in the last question so maybe I’ll just spend another second on it. Jason asks, “One reason among many why I love Stay Tuned is that you ask such well-worded questions. Would you please share with us your process for developing question sets or an outline for upcoming guests?”
Preet Bharara: And as I said, there’s a lot of smart folks on the team who help educate people about a guest, help educate me about a guest’s views. There’s a lot of suggesting of questions. I get a fairly substantial document with respect to each guest before they come on. Time permitting, we’ll have a discussion about it, we’ll go through it a little bit. We don’t actually do a practice Q&A with role-playing, but we do talk about it a great deal.
Preet Bharara: And so some questions are formulated in advance, but a lot of the questions, hopefully I’m doing what I advise other people to do, which is to listen to the answers given. For example, if you guys listen to Michael Morell podcast, there were a lot of questions that were prepared in advance. They were excellent. And I had only planned to spend a few minutes talking about the issue of how to recruit an asset, essentially how to get a spy to come work for the United States for intelligence-gathering purposes.
Preet Bharara: But then the answers I was getting from Michael Morell, and the topic was so fascinating to me, I think we ended up spending 20, 25 minutes on it in the moment. So, hopefully I was listening to what he was answering, listening hard for what he wasn’t really getting at, and trying to ask questions that were geared to getting him to reveal more than he might have otherwise revealed. So, I hope that answers your question.
Preet Bharara: We haven’t talked about Jeffrey Epstein in 15 minutes, so here’s a question from Catherine who says, “I was shocked that two, not one, two federal prison guards falsified the records. Is there any type of ethics training for the guards to remind them of their continuing duties to be honest and what that looks like on the job?”
Preet Bharara: Catherine, I think you’re referring to a report, I don’t know how substantiated it is yet, in the last day, saying that there were two people, two corrections officer, one of whom may not have even been a full-fledged corrections officer, whatever that means, responsible for the care and oversight of Jeffrey Epstein overnight on the night of I guess Friday of last week. And that the reports are that one or both of them fell asleep. They were supposed to check, according to protocols, on Jeffrey Epstein every 30 minutes. According to the report, three hours went by and they hadn’t checked on Epstein.
Preet Bharara: And then in the aftermath of that, obviously with the terrible, awful consequence, the reporting is that they falsified records. Now, that seems kind of dumb because when something like this happens, among other things that are difficult to prove, it shouldn’t be that hard to show based on a video surveillance, other witness testimony, and all sorts of other bits of proof, that people didn’t do their job. And so the falsifying of records, I don’t know how you get away with that given the other evidence that will be brought to bear.
Preet Bharara: Is there ethics training? Yeah, there’s tons of training for guards, correction officers, in all jails and prisons. As you might recall, it’s a major theme of my book that rules and procedures and regulations and laws never fully do the trick, because if the people who are responsible for following them, notwithstanding training and reminders and lectures and admonitions, if they’re not good, if they’re not fundamentally competent, if they’re not fundamentally attracted to doing the best possible job that you can do, if they deviate from best practices, if they’re lazy or they think that accountability can be spread to other people, then you get miscarriages of justice. And then you get bad results like you had here.
Preet Bharara: I think there’s a lot to still be learned about who was assigned where, what their incentives were, what kind of under-staffing there was. But I’ll repeat what I said before, which is a basic and honest point. There was really no excuse.
Preet Bharara: And I keep hearing stories about people not being trained well enough and under-staffing and resources not being available and budget cuts. You have the most significant federal defendant inmate at the MCC, the Metropolitan Correctional Center, under the care and watch of these people and the warden. And you have really precise, lengthy protocol. I mean, the protocol on suicide prevention at the BOP runs to 25 pages, and I read it this past weekend and it’s actually pretty good.
Preet Bharara: But you have all those things together and yet Jeffrey Epstein was capable of taking his own life. That to me is a human problem, not necessarily a regulation policy problem or a training problem. You have something bigger than that, and we’ll see more about that.
Preet Bharara: This is a question. Oh, you know, we talked about this a little bit a couple of weeks ago but maybe I can recap. “Hi Preet. This is Tessa from Los Angeles. I wondering what repercussions do you think will come from Newsom signing the law to require presidential candidates to supply their tax returns? Nothing, right? It’s going to die in court. Trump will coast through as usual.”
Preet Bharara: So, you’re referring to the law signed into, or the bill signed into law by Gavin Newsom the Governor of California, which requires that if you want to compete in the primary for the presidency in 2020, you have to disclose some years of tax returns. It’s obviously geared towards Trump, it’s obviously about Trump, as I think Anne and I discussed on a previous show.
Preet Bharara: Jerry Brown, who is not a Trump fan and is not a closet conservative, decided not to sign that into law because he was worried about the slippery slope of then red states adding all sorts of prohibitions and hoops for people who are Democrats to have to meet before they could be on the ballot. So, look, I think it’s an interesting point. But we were flattered that Gavin Newsom, in his signing statement, referred to work that I have done through the Brennan Center with Governor Christine Todd Whitman, on the Democracy Taskforce which suggests that there should be a federal law that requires this kind of thing. With respect to a presidential election, I think federal law is probably the better way to go at it.
Preet Bharara: I think experts are split. When you say it’s going to die in court, experts are a little bit split on the constitutionality of it. I think there are smart and good people who think there’s a good argument for its constitutionality, not withstanding that the Federal Election Clause and the Constitution should be supreme and should dominate over a state trying to mess with it. And there are people on the other side, who are also reasonable and smart and thoughtful, who think this is a problem.
Preet Bharara: In either event the consequence, as we also discussed on a previous show, is that I don’t see any way this affects or impedes Donald Trump’s ability to be on the general election ballot in California because this only relates to primaries. They understand legally they can’t inflict this requirement on the general election. So, it’s symbolic, it’s important. I think it’s a good issue for the Congress to take up. Maybe for State to take up, and maybe this will be a test case and we’ll see what happens. But right now I think it’s a little bit of a jump all on this question.
Preet Bharara: We have just a couple of minutes left. Well, here’s one personal question from Mary. “I noticed a few guests have mispronounced your name and you politely don’t correct them. Do you ever? And if so, when?”
Preet Bharara: When your last name is Bharara, and people don’t understand that the H is silent and it’s a very easy name to pronounce … I often tell people it reminds with Ferrara, a nice Italian name that nobody has trouble pronouncing. But when your name is Bharara and you’re often referred to as Bharara, Bharara … I think once I was called Bruhaha, which I didn’t mind that much, you get used to it.
Preet Bharara: I find it awkward to correct people in the middle of talking to me. I try to let people know if they’re going to introduce me somewhere or I’m appearing on someone else’s podcast, me or my team more likely will just do a quick, “Hey, just so you know, it’s Bharara.”
Preet Bharara: One of the most impressive things that I’ve ever seen, and thanks for making me think of it, and one of the greatest moments of my life, was when, some of you may know, seven years ago in 2012 I went to a Bruce Springsteen concert and he gave me a shout-out. And what’s interesting about that, and why I think Bruce Springsteen is amazing and my hero and a consummate professional … And there’s a new movie about him by an Indian fellow that I haven’t seen yet, but I plan to so don’t Tweet at me. As I’m going into the stadium with some members of my family, I knew that I was going to be seeing Bruce backstage because a mutual friend had arranged and he said he wanted to meet me. And I was really, really excited about it.
Preet Bharara: But I was at a stadium in Connecticut and I got call as I’m going to my seats from Bruce’s guy. And he just says, “Hey, just wanted to ask you a quick question,” as I’m going to my seats, as the concert has not yet begun. And he says, “Remind me how to pronounce your last name.” And I said, “Oh, it’s Bharara, rhymes with Ferrara.” And I thought, “Wow, what a consummate professional.” Springsteen has people around him who want to make sure he knows how to pronounce the name, so when we go backstage it won’t be embarrassing. Even though I couldn’t understand why he would need to say my last name because it’s easier to go by Preet. Preet never gets mispronounced, or almost never gets mispronounced.
Preet Bharara: And then of course five or six songs into the concert, without a note, Bruce Springsteen, playing some chords on his guitar, says, “This one’s for Preet Bharara.” Pronounced my last name personally.
Preet Bharara: So, if a rock star who has never met me before can remember to do that in the midst of performing in front of 30,000 people, you’d think it would be easier for other people. But it’s not so easy and I try not to embarrass people even when they get it wrong. Maybe I should change that strategy and tell everyone how to pronounce my goddamn name in advance.
Preet Bharara: I hope you enjoy it. I want to thank you all for being a member of CAFE Insider. I know you have a lot of things to listen to and read every week, and I appreciate being here in front of you on a regular basis, both in print now and also the podcast and also through these live calls which we’ll try to do more of. And most importantly, I appreciate all of you being a part of this community. Your voice matters more than ever before.
Preet Bharara: Until next time, I’m Preet Bharara.
Preet Bharara: I hope you enjoyed this recording of our Town Call. Thank you again for being a member of the CAFE Insider community.
Preet Bharara: This is the CAFE Insider podcast. The executive producer is Tamara Sepper. The senior producer is Aaron Dalton. And the CAFE team is Carla Pierini, Julia Doyle, Calvin Lord, [Vanee Basty 00:40:46] and Jeff Eiserman. Our music is by Andrew Dost.