I’m Preet Bharara, and I used to have the greatest job in America.
I was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, working with the most effective and honorable public servants I’ve ever known. My office took on the worst criminals our country (and the world) had to offer – from Somali Pirates to corrupt politicians to Russian spies, and more. Gangsters hated us; Wall Street tricksters feared us; the Russian government banned me from their country. Life was good. Every day when I went to work, I thought about the responsibility I had to pursue truth and justice, and I tried my best to do the right thing. It was a pretty great gig and I never wanted it to end.
Then, a few months into Donald Trump’s tenure as President, I was fired.
Being unceremoniously thrown out of a job you love will make you think, and ever since I left my office in Manhattan, I’ve had a lot of time to consider where this country is headed and what that new direction means for the issues of justice, opportunity, and liberty that have always been at the core of my professional career. How will new prosecution guidelines affect people convicted of drug crimes? What does the increased visibility of white supremacists mean for civil rights? At a moment when Americans are more pessimistic about their leadership than at any time in recent memory, can the ideals of American justice that I fought for endure?
I’ve had conversations about those issues with friends and on television, and even on Twitter. But there’s only so much nuance and detail that can come through in 140 characters – and if you really want to get to the bottom of important issues facing our country, you need to be able to dig into those ideas with people who know what they’re talking about. That’s why I started a podcast: to discuss the news of the day, to explain some of the legal challenges being raised, and to think about questions that I’ve wrestled with my entire life – questions that are more important today than ever before.
For those who expect every episode to be a takedown of the current President, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Although we’ll certainly talk about current events – and no topic will be off-limits – this podcast isn’t about settling scores or taking potshots. The questions I want to discuss are bigger than that. They’re about who we are as a nation, and as a people. They’re about what our country represents and how we succeed and fall short. And they’re about where we go from here.
These are the ideas and questions that I wrestle with and that have real-world implications for millions of people across the country. That’s what I’ll be talking about on my podcast with some of the smartest and most interesting people in America.
This week’s episode includes an interview with Leon Panetta – a former White House Chief of Staff, former Secretary of Defense, and former Director of the CIA. We discussed the arc of civil rights, the conflict between good politics and bad policy, and whether public servants should fight battles from the inside or the outside. We even talked a little bit about those Russian spies.
It’s the first of many great conversations about issues that animate our democracy and shape our world. I hope you’ll join us. Stay tuned.