Broadcast on 3/18/2019
Preet Bharara: From Café, this is Café Insider. I’m Preet Bharara.
Anne Milgram: And I’m Anne Milgram.
Preet Bharara: How are you today?
Anne Milgram: Good. How you doing?
Preet Bharara: Well, I’m fine.
Anne Milgram: It’s a big day.
Preet Bharara: The book launches tomorrow.
Anne Milgram: Congratulations.
Preet Bharara: Thank you very much.
Anne Milgram: You getting a lot of rest? Relaxing?
Preet Bharara: Yeah. No, to sleeping. It will be weird to walk into a bookstore and see the book tomorrow.
Anne Milgram: Yeah. I just saw the printed copy. I do have one question for you. Can’t you have bigger type for older people, like me? My arms are getting shorter, I think.
Preet Bharara: Really?
Anne Milgram: I’m just teasing.
Preet Bharara: Okay.
Anne Milgram: I’m just teasing, but you get to this point after you turn 40, where it’s like you have to hold things a little bit farther away.
Preet Bharara: It’s a very bold cover with a big title.
Anne Milgram: It’s a great cover.
Preet Bharara: Anyway, if you want to hear about truth, justice, and the American way, and some great stories, get the book now.
Anne Milgram: Yeah.
Preet Bharara: We’ll see how it does this week. My dad is telling all his friends of my book.
Anne Milgram: I’m excited for you.
Preet Bharara: My dad keeps saying, by the way-
Anne Milgram: My mom is telling people to buy the book too.
Preet Bharara: Oh, she is?
Anne Milgram: Yeah. She ordered it last night.
Preet Bharara: Probably because my dad called her. Mrs. Milgram could you please … He wants people to know that it’s not a book for lawyers, it’s a book for everyone.
Anne Milgram: Which is great.
Preet Bharara: And it’s understandable, I’m told. All right. We have a lot to discuss. I say this every week, maybe I should stop saying it? Just presume we have a lot to discuss. We have the horrific attack in New Zealand, where, now, the death toll is up to 50. We have the college admissions scandal. We have various Mueller updates. Is the report coming? Is it not coming? Let’s see how far we get.
Anne Milgram: Yeah. Let’s start with New Zealand. I mean, this is an unbelievably tragic event. First of all, we should talk about the tragedy of, now, 50 people murdered by a white supremacist, an Australian 28 year-old. What is extraordinary, to me, in watching this unfold is the speed at which the country of New Zealand is moving to change their gun laws.
Preet Bharara: Well, people keep referring to that, and I’ve seen on social media, and I respect it, saying, “Look, see, that’s how it’s done. It can be very easy.” Now, in fairness, New Zealand does not have a version of the Second Amendment in its constitution, so you can do these things as a policy matter without running afoul of a foundational document of the country. It’s harder to do here.
Anne Milgram: I think that’s true, though. To me, what’s interesting about it is, you have a coalition government where, not long ago, the deputy member of the coalition says, “I will not allow the gun laws to be changed.” And you’ve got a law that, basically, allows for an AR-15, an assault rifle, that the law, basically, says, “You can only have seven bullets in it.” And, yet, you can take that off and put a casing for 30 bullets on, so you can, literally, under the law, take it and go out, and transform it into what is just an unstoppable killing machine.
Anne Milgram: The thing, I think, that we’re all trying to understand is, if you look at, even the US in recent years, we’ve had an extraordinary jump in hate crimes. We have an extraordinary leap in white supremacists.
Preet Bharara: Well, the President doesn’t say that.
Anne Milgram: Right. Well, what do you think about what the President said?
Preet Bharara: Well, it’s weird to me. We can talk about the different things that need to be done to address the problem of rising white nationalism, and extremism, and that form of terrorism, but one thing that’s important is that it be acknowledged. The President gets this plausible deniability because he’ll make some statement that, I suppose, is appreciated condemning some act of violence, but he doesn’t call out what it really is, and he minimizes it, and he said something like, “That’s a small number of people.” Not acknowledging that it’s on the rise.
Preet Bharara: If a country is going to take some action, it takes leadership from the top. And whether, or not, New Zealand has a Second Amendment, or a version of it, the fact that the Prime Minister there immediately took action, and immediately called it out for what it was, and immediately, also, talked about the importance of having solidarity with the Muslim community. Donald Trump would never utter words like that. He got into the presidency, in part, by claiming he would declare a ban on all Muslims coming to this country, and we forget that.
Anne Milgram: Right.
Preet Bharara: It’s been watered down and better lawyers have figured out a way to narrow it a little bit. But Donald Trump’s stump promise was that he would ban all Muslims, no matter what.
Anne Milgram: That’s right.
Preet Bharara: How you would tell who’s a Muslim and who’s not, and on what basis you could do that? That was his stated premise, and there are a lot of people who I think support him for that reason.
Anne Milgram: Right. Did you see that his chief of staff yesterday, is acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, went on one of the shows-
Preet Bharara: It was Face the Nation, right before me.
Anne Milgram: Okay, all right. Well, you were the better guest, I’m sure. I did not actually get to see it yet, but I read the transcript.
Preet Bharara: Oh, I was.
Anne Milgram: One of the things I was amazed by is he goes to this place of saying, “There’s no causation.” Which is saying, “Donald Trump didn’t cause the New Zealand massacre.” Yet, we have the 28 year-old who, basically, puts out this manifesto explaining why he’s engaging in such hateful violence.
Preet Bharara: What language did he use?
Anne Milgram: He, basically, talks about Donald Trump. He uses the language of white supremacy. He uses the language of violence, and he talks about Donald Trump, and nationalism. I don’t think that’s causation, and I don’t think anyone should argue it’s causation, but I don’t think anyone has. What Mulvaney is trying to say is that there’s no connection. There’s no, even, correlation.
Preet Bharara: Sort of what he’s saying is, “The President bares no responsibility for being a leader, for leadership.” I think two things about this. One, yeah, maybe there’s not direct causation, but it is not good that the President of the United States, whether intentionally or inadvertently, and I tend to think it’s not so inadvertent, is providing talking points to serial mass murders who believe that they are supreme, white supremacists. In the same way, in a parallel way, it’s a little bit different, where he says, “Fake news,” and it has insidious effect, because it’s being adopted by straw men around the world. It’s not good. He’s not making it any better.
Anne Milgram: I agree. And we have seen, in 2017, we’ve seen this incredible jump in violence and white supremacists. So, let me look for the exact statistics.
Preet Bharara: While you’re looking for the statistic, I’ll mention something else that struck me, and I think of it at times like this. I don’t know if it was coined by Andrew Gillum, who unsuccessfully ran for governor of Florida. But, boy, it’s a good line and it makes a mark. He said, about his opponent, at the time, he’s like, “I’m not saying that you’re a racist, but the racists think you are a racist.”
Anne Milgram: Right, right.
Preet Bharara: It’s one question whether Donald Trump has certain views, but it is certainly true that some of the bad people think he’s on their side.
Anne Milgram: I agree.
Preet Bharara: And you can do more to distance yourself from them.
Anne Milgram: Yes. And there’s an influence question, even if it’s not causation, there’s a question of influence, again, intentional or unintentional. There are a number of statistics that, I think, are really important, but looking at the Anti-Defamation League that, essentially, tracks extremist activity. They found that, last year, white supremacist murders in the US more than doubled, with far-right extremist groups, and white supremacists responsible for 59% of all extremist related fatalities in the United States. And the year before, they were responsible for 20% of these fatalities.
Preet Bharara: That’s a huge increase.
Anne Milgram: Yes. They also noted that the propaganda from white supremacist groups has increased, in 2018, by 182%. You’ve also got a think tank in Washington D.C., The Center for Strategic and International Studies, reporting that the number of terrorists attacks, in the US, by far-right perpetrators has risen over the past decade, more than quadrupling between 2016 and 2017. Again, it’s not causation, but Donald Trump came into office January 2016. He did start with the Muslim ban, as you noted, and, I think, the lack of willingness … And he did condemn this attack and we should be fair in saying he said it was a terrible thing. But, when you look at something like Charlottesville saying that there are two sides. That actually adds fuel to the fire and causes more problems.
Anne Milgram: A couple other things I think are worth just touching on. One of the things that’s really interesting in New Zealand is this argument to register guns. New Zealand, like the United States, does not register guns, lawfully purchased arms. What I’ve seen a lot, in the criminal prosecutions I’ve done, is that someone lawfully purchases a gun, and there are times when guns are not purchased lawfully, but in this scenario someone lawfully purchases a gun, either gives it or resells it to somebody else, it’s not registered. And that gun can change hands five times, 10 times, and then is used in an act of violence.
Anne Milgram: It’s traced back to the original owner. If it’s gone through a lawful method of sale, it may also be traced back to subsequent owners, but it isn’t always the case, because that person doesn’t have to register the gun. So, New Zealand is talking about doing that. Australia has done it. The United States has pushed back on it. What do you think of that as a public safety question?
Preet Bharara: I think it’s among the things that should be considered. I think, based on the sense of where the debate is in this country, that’s one of the more difficult things to accomplish. We still don’t have universal background checks. Having a registry is something that will cause a lot of alarm on the part of a lot of folks, including progressives who are from states where gun control is a problem. I wonder what Moms Demand thinks of that. I don’t remember it being on the list of top priorities, in part, because maybe it’s not so practical here.
Preet Bharara: My other question about all this is, to what extent should law enforcement be more engaged on issues of white nationalism and far-right extremism? I, obviously, for a long time worked hand-in-hand with the Joint Terrorism Task Force on protecting the homeland when I was U.S. attorney. We spent a lot of energy and effort, some of it controversial, on methods to infiltrate potential terrorist groups, sometimes introducing under-covers to folks who would simply, on social media or at a place of worship, suggest if they wanted to do terrible things, kill Jews, destroy America, and engaged in sting operations. It takes a lot of energy, a lot of effort. Should we be doing that kind of thing with respect to this other form of terrorism?
Anne Milgram: I think it’s a great question. You hear this argument. When you and I think about terrorism, and you can think about whether it’s Charleston, or Pittsburgh, or Charlottesville. You can think about examples in the US, when people have been killed at the hands of white supremacists. Then the conversation is, “Do we call that terrorism?” The way that the US, statutorily, defines terrorism, it’s influencing a government body by doing something to the citizens, is one avenue. Then there’s this list that the State Department keeps of the 60, or however many, I don’t know the exact number today, the 60, or so, groups of folks that are known sponsors of terrorism.
Preet Bharara: Designated terrorist organizations.
Anne Milgram: If we really think about it, we colloquially use the term, terrorism, because it feels like terrorism to me. And, yet, there is no standalone domestic terrorism crime. There is nothing that … In these cases, we’ve seen, for example, murder of a law enforcement agent charged. The charges are really about more hate crime murder charged on a local level. There’s no real federal crime that gets at it in some ways directly to what’s happening. The argument is always, “Well, we have existing laws,” but, I think, there’s two questions.
Anne Milgram: One is, is that sufficient, as a matter of law, but then the second question, I think, goes more to what you just talked about, which is the extraordinary intelligence work that now happens to prevent acts of terrorism on US soil.
Preet Bharara: You have to be careful about it on US soil.
Anne Milgram: Yeah. I mean, this is a real question, but it is also a question of you, as a sitting US attorney, would you have wanted greater authority to do the preventative work and intelligence gathering work? It comes at a price. I’m not saying it doesn’t.
Preet Bharara: Yeah, I might have, but I do think that there’s certain, basic things, that don’t run afoul of US law that could be undertaken and accomplished. Some of these aggressive sting operations, for example, with respect to white extremist groups, which have been done from time-to-time in places around the country. But, maybe, it’s time for there to be a concerted effort in Washington to think about training people to do these investigations, keeping an eye on the longterm. John Miller, who we’ve had on the show, the head of counter-intel at the NYPD, has been talking about this issue for a while, and talking about the rise in right-wing extremism, and the increasing propaganda.
Preet Bharara: It’s a focus of the NYPD, and it probably should become a focus for other law enforcement agencies, as well.
Anne Milgram: Do you think there’s also an aspect to international? I’m curious about it, because it’s not just the US. I mean, we’ve seen, just this morning, there was a terrorist attack in the Netherlands on a tram. It’s not reported the full number of fatalities yet, but this is a worldwide question right now, particularly, through social media. There’s an argument to be made that there’s a lot of information being shared amongst … and they are often lone wolves, but they’re being radicalized and they’re sharing extremist information that, maybe, there’s a way in which we can be tracking this internationally?
Anne Milgram: I struggle with the question of, if you and I sit here, and we think, “Is this going to happen again tomorrow?” I’d like to be able to say that you can never say 100% of anything as good as law enforcement and intelligence agencies can be, but have we done everything to put ourselves in a position where we’re not going to lose more lives in hate filled extremism? I think the answer is not a good one, right now.
Preet Bharara: I don’t think we’re doing enough. I mean, one of the things, this is not a book plug, although I’ll mention the book. When issues are raised in the book, is the degree to which you’re thinking about future harm and how you analyze future harm. When you have someone like, the shooter in Parkland, on Valentine’s Day of last year, kill 17 people. There were signs of that person’s wanting to engage in some serious destruction and, possibly, even a massacre, but he hadn’t done it. What’s a thought crime versus what’s an actual crime?
Preet Bharara: I tell the story of the aspiring cannibal, who was a police officer.
Anne Milgram: A cannibal cop?
Preet Bharara: A so-called, cannibal cop, whose conviction was later overturned, because the judge deemed it to be fantasy and not enough action taken. But there are things that are being talked about, like these red flag laws, where you don’t necessarily prosecute someone, but based on certain kinds of conduct, and warning signs, and maybe some action, that a parent, or some other person, can go to the court and take the firearm away from somebody who is exhibiting signs of doing something very dangerous, and evil, and monstrous in the future. Some states have passed those laws, and I think they should be seriously examined in other places, as well.
Anne Milgram: Yeah, that’s a good point. It really is, and this is a reflection, not just on New Zealand and hate around the world, it’s also, I think, a really important conversation and question in the United States, which is, also related to those types of laws and, also, the FBI’s generally charged with leadership on a lot of the intelligence issues now. I mean, obviously, the CIA, as well, but it’s an interesting question of how are we approaching it? Are we doing enough?
Anne Milgram: I think the answer is, it has to be looked at. And people who are experts in right-wing extremism have to help us understand are there other ways to stop radicalization to contain it, or to take weapons, as you say. But it really does just strike me as one of those problems that I look at, and I worry that we just keep seeing it happen again, and again, and it’s more, and more, now. Donald Trump is going to be president for two more years, so that’s not going to change. You rightly point out, it’s tough politics to change gun laws. So, the question is, is the FBI a means to do this? Is international intelligence sharing about who’s on extremist websites or sharing information? I don’t have an answer. I wish we did, but I think the one thing I’m sure is we’re not doing enough to address this.
Preet Bharara: It’s like anything else, the threat is increasing, and there should be resources and attention increasing accordingly. The other thing about this whole matter is the importance of leaders expressing solidarity with affection for, and inclusion of, Muslim communities. Some people have been, I think, very inspiring how they’ve talked about this. I don’t have a dog in the fight for the presidential contest in 2020, but we did have one of them on our show, Pete Buttigieg. And if I can commend to people’s attention, a very moving letter that he wrote to the Muslim community in South Bend, Indiana. It’s just words, but words are important and his words were a fine a statement as I’ve seen.
Anne Milgram: Yes, and if you look at the statement of the New Zealand Prime Minister, she made an extraordinary statement expressing sympathy and love for all Muslim communities. That type of leadership matters at such difficult times.
Preet Bharara: Let’s move onto something that’s not quite as serious, and not quite as heartbreaking, but has found deep resonance and anger on the part of lots of people in the country, and that is, Operation Varsity Blues, the college admissions scandal.
Anne Milgram: That’s right.
Preet Bharara: Before we get to certain aspects of it, what I’d love to talk to you about is how this case … It’s a little bit of a case study in investigative techniques.
Anne Milgram: Yes.
Preet Bharara: You can, not to bring everything back to the Mueller investigation, but you see in a case that has nothing to do with politics, it has nothing to do with Trump, how a case will evolve in a way that is very hard to criticize. According to The Wall Street Journal, the case began when federal authorities were looking at what they often look at, like my office used to look at, a securities fraud case against a financial executive.
Anne Milgram: Right.
Preet Bharara: What happened? The financial executive is getting pinched, is getting squeezed, like we’ve seen Michael Cohen, and Paul Manafort, and so many other people that everyone talks about, and he decides to flip.
Anne Milgram: Yeah, I got something for you.
Preet Bharara: I got something for you, and he’s like, “You know what, guess what I have for you?” And it was not on their radar screen. It was not what they were looking for and they said, “This is what happens with us sometimes,” and you’re like, “Holy what?”
Anne Milgram: What’s fascinating about it is, also, that he puts them into the conversation that he’s had with the Yale soccer coach.
Preet Bharara: He says the head coach of the women’s soccer team at Yale is, basically, asking for a bribe to get the financial executive’s daughter into Yale.
Anne Milgram: For $450,000.
Preet Bharara: Which is not a bargain.
Anne Milgram: Well, that’s a good point.
Preet Bharara: My parents paid a lot less than that to get me on the ping pong team at Harvard.
Anne Milgram: You were on the ping pong team? Wait, let’s stop here.
Preet Bharara: No, I wasn’t. That was fraudulent, but the table tennis coach at Harvard approached my … This is all a jokes guys, and I also don’t have a golf simulator.
Anne Milgram: You don’t, but you did have a radio show.
Preet Bharara: I did have a radio show.
Anne Milgram: I learned that recently. That’s why you have such a good voice for radio. What’s fascinating about it is, for $450,000 the amazing part of this is the guarantee. Your daughter will get into Yale, if you pay me $450,000. What’s pretty interesting about how they get into this broader scheme against William Rick Singer, the man in Newport Beach, California, who was running this whole business to try to help people get into college, is that, generally, when there have been this scam with the Yale women’s soccer coach, it had gone through Singer. And then Singer paid the Yale coach, since it’s been reported, $400,000 for getting one of those soccer team slots. Here, the coach is cutting Singer out of this. In some ways, he’s going directly to this guy and saying, “Give me $450,000.”
Preet Bharara: Right.
Anne Milgram: It’s a story of greed, I think, in many ways, “And I’ll guarantee your daughter admission.” By doing that, the cooperator wire is up, gets these conversations recorded in a Boston hotel room, and then, all of a sudden, you have a case against the second person.
Preet Bharara: The change of investigative technique is so textbook that we’ve mentioned some of it. Let’s just take us through. They’re investigating something related to financial fraud.
Anne Milgram: A securities fraud.
Preet Bharara: A securities fraud.
Anne Milgram: Yep. A pretty standard type of securities fraud case.
Preet Bharara: He flips and there have been people, including the President, who say, “Well, flipping shouldn’t be allowed,” but for the allowance of cooperation, we would know any of this scandal. So, he flips. Then he wires up. Then they get onto another person who is the organizer of the whole thing. Then they use another investigative technique, which is they get up on his phone.
Anne Milgram: Right. They wiretap his phone and they catch him in all these conversations agreeing to, as the charges lay out, either, essentially, cheat on the SAT or ACT entrance exam by having, in many instances, someone come in and take the test or change the results, or the other model is going through the athletic programs, through either administrators coaches, and bribing them in order to get them to give slots to these kids. He’s on tape, and what does it mean when you’re on tap? The FBI shows up at your door one day and says, “Hey, by the way, we think you’ve committed X-number of crimes.” He might say, “No.” Then they say, “Well, by the way, we’ve been tape recording your conversations for the last three months, or what not.”
Preet Bharara: Just to hammer the point home, again, because it’s on my mind. When you take a case, like this, that’s devoid of politics, not related to Trump, all these techniques. The idea that you’re investigating for one thing and then you found evidence of something else. No one is complaining. No one could complain that the FBI and US attorney’s office, in Boston, turned its attention to other things. No one can complain, and no one has complained that they used the cooperating tool to find out the extent of all this fraud. No one is complaining and no one should complain that someone wires up against someone else. Then you’ve got to bug someone’s phone and are able to wiretap them to find this massive amount of illegal activity.
Preet Bharara: And it’s not a defense for the coaches to say, “Hey, wait a minute. There’s no securities fraud. There’s no securities fraud,” in the same way that people say, “There’s no collusion or there’s nothing that has been found with respect to the election.” All the time, people, like Paul Manafort, and others, and I’ll stop on this rant, get away with their crimes for various reasons, and justice catches up with them. And sometimes it catches up with them, because an executive is getting pinched by the feds for something that’s completely unrelated to the eventual enormous criminal conduct that’s been exposed.
Anne Milgram: Yeah, and they have information on other crime. That’s always a way that people can come in as cooperators. One of the other things I think is pretty textbook, or worth talking about in this case is that, they could have made a case just against the Yale soccer coach, and they could have stopped there. What I think shows good prosecutorial and investigative work is to not do that. To, basically, make the case apREgainst him and wire up against him, get as strong evidence as possible. Then use that to go be able to flip the lead organizer of the enterprise. What that basically meant was … And I, actually, personally, belief that we may see more indictments coming. You’ve got three months of wiretaps on Singer, but you’ve got him … There’s an extraordinary number of people that are caught on wires, on phone calls, and in messages, over that period of time.
Preet Bharara: It’s like every kind of coach, soccer coach, tennis coach, volleyball coach, sailing coach.
Anne Milgram: And that’s three months. That’s a slice of time. Then he, basically, becomes the narrator, as we talk a lot about cooperators are unsavory. We should talk about this for a second. His lawyer came out … I mean, two things were … It’s a side door into a university. I have a problem with that. A side door implies it’s a legitimate entrance of some form and there’s nothing legitimate-
Preet Bharara: It’s like breaking and entering.
Anne Milgram: Yeah, exactly. It’s like breaking down the window. But the second thing he said was, “He’s so relieved that it’s over and now he can clear his conscience and tell the truth.” The reality is, he got caught red handed, and he’s made a decision that he was going to go to prison for committing a number of crimes, and he’s going to cooperate with the government. Now, one question for you, because I think one of the things you and I would say, as a rule, is you don’t cooperate the boss. Why, here, would they cooperate him?
Preet Bharara: I don’t know all the details and all the facts. There maybe other bits of information that he’s given the authorities that they haven’t been able to act upon yet. But it is also true, sometimes, and it seems to be one of those cases, where you get the top dog first. And, for whatever reason, that’s the center of the conspiracy wheel, the spokes going out. That’s the person through whom you’re going to take down the entire broad-based national group of wrongdoers
Anne Milgram: You need him in some ways.
Preet Bharara: And you need him.
Anne Milgram: Because he’s the nucleus of the …
Preet Bharara: Yeah, nucleus is good. It’s good scientific biological reference.
Anne Milgram: What I think he gives them, and it’s extraordinary, is, to your point of the spokes. The spokes aren’t all related. The soccer coach, at Yale, doesn’t necessarily know who is at Wake Forest-
Preet Bharara: Yes, precisely.
Anne Milgram: And who is at other places. The only person who knows all of it is Singer, the leader of this organization, and the charitable foundation that people were making donations to, as a form of payment. It’s an extraordinary case that I don’t think you would make without his cooperation against all these schools, all these people.
Preet Bharara: Right.
Anne Milgram: But one of the questions people are asking, and I think it’s worth just talking about is, what’s the difference between giving a $2 million building and giving a $2 million bribe?
Preet Bharara: Well, one’s unlawful, and one just seems not right. It’s that old saying, “What’s really shocking is what’s legal, not what’s illegal.”
Anne Milgram: Right. Yeah, I don’t think, in anyway, this should be … This conversation is an endorsement of that type of quid pro quo, which does exist. The thing I found interesting about this is it just takes it to the next level, which is, it’s a guarantee. If someone gives a building, and their kid is still evaluated, it’s likely, at a lot of schools, I do think we should have a better practice in this. That this should not happen.
Preet Bharara: I think it’s going to cause a lot of people to have a further discussion of something that’s very important in this country, how folks, with a lot of privilege, and a lot of opportunity, find that, that’s not even enough. We used to get this all the time in cases we brought. It would be, often, defense lawyer’s clever defense, if there was ambiguous evidence say, “Well, my guy didn’t do that, because he doesn’t have too, because he has privilege, and he has money.”
Preet Bharara: And, yet, we arrested billionaires who cheated to the tune of millions of dollars. And here, you have some of these people, who already have all this privilege. Who already have access to tutors. Who already have access to great schools. Who already have access to networks.
Anne Milgram: To every possible advantage.
Preet Bharara: Yeah, and that’s still not enough.
Anne Milgram: Yes.
Preet Bharara: They still have to put that on steroids. It’s like insider trading folks. You already have all this advantage. You already have $100 million, but you want a little bit of extra edge.
Anne Milgram: One other thing that I think that we’re all really focused on the parents, and their role in this extraordinary case. What I think is also pretty important is the number of colleges and universities that were corrupted, or are corrupt, that’s little-C corrupt. But if we really step back and think about this, it’s not one college where their administrative controls and their governance procedures of how they make sure that students who are supposed to recruit actually recruit, or who are supposed to play soccer actually play soccer, or who’s being admitted, and their ability to perform at the university.
Anne Milgram: All of that, if it were one school, you and I would say, “That’s a problem at the school,” but it’s so many schools. And, I think, we have to cast a really critical eye on the colleges and universities, not just these, but others, where there’s no way, in my mind, that they shouldn’t have been aware of some of this wrongdoing or, at least, tracking it. It comes as a surprise to them. That’s what they’re saying, “We can’t believe it. It’s terrible.”
Preet Bharara: Yeah, and it goes to the issue of how much weight is given to, and importance placed on, college sports, without a lot of oversight. It’s really important to fill out that team. It’s really important to get someone, even if they’re not great students, or if they can, at least, show that they are decent students, and the paperwork is fine, we can gloss over it. That’s fine too, which is the gap that allows people to engage in fraud.
Anne Milgram: Right.
Preet Bharara: When there’s no oversight of things.
Anne Milgram: And there’s intentional lack of oversight, I think, here. That’s what I think we need to call out and, basically, say to universities, “Look, you got to have policies, and procedures, and guidelines, and you’ve got to hold people accountable.”
Preet Bharara: Right. What’s funny about that is, people’s perception has been, that there’s a turning of a blind eye to academic standards in favor of getting the star athlete, because that’s what’s important. The alumni want to see particular teams do really well. Here, by turning a blind eye, they’re not even getting the athlete. They’re getting a terrible student and a pretend athlete.
Anne Milgram: Right.
Preet Bharara: A phantom athlete.
Anne Milgram: Completely. By the way, these are not schools, generally, known to have great sports teams.
Preet Bharara: Let’s go to what’s going on with the Mueller investigation. I have been, for weeks, hearing ringing in my ears, “The Mueller report is coming. The Mueller report is coming.” There were times when reporters would reach out and say, “Are you going to be available for comment this afternoon?”
Anne Milgram: Yeah, me too.
Preet Bharara: Because it’s coming.
Anne Milgram: Yes.
Preet Bharara: And did not.
Anne Milgram: It has not come. It’s like-
Preet Bharara: It was not coming.
Anne Milgram: The child who cried, “Wolf,” or whatnot, where, “It’s coming. It’s coming,” then it hasn’t come.
Preet Bharara: Let’s talk about the reasons why.
Anne Milgram: Yep.
Preet Bharara: There’s some basis to believe it is winding down.
Anne Milgram: Right. I think there is basis to believe that it is winding down. We’ve seen some sentencing of some high profile folks, and the case is moving on. We’ve also seen, and I think this is the counter argument, we’ve also seen some cases that are being continued, for example, Gates, Richard Gates, who was Paul Manafort’s deputy on the campaign. Then he was one of the co-heads of the transition of President Trump’s transition. We’ve seen the special prosecutor’s office say, “We’re not ready for sentencing, in this case, because he’s still cooperating with investigations.” Which may, or may not, relate to the special counsel’s office.
Preet Bharara: Let’s go back to one of the reasons that people think that, maybe, it’s winding down. It goes to someone you know very well, Andrew Weissmann, who is the top deputy on the special counsel team.
Anne Milgram: Who was handling the Manafort case, I believe.
Preet Bharara: Yeah, and he said he’s leaving. Now …
Anne Milgram: And Manafort is finished.
Preet Bharara: Manafort is finished, but if you presume, like I have, that he is overlooking all of it, and he’s close to Bob Mueller. That his departure signifies something, does it?
Anne Milgram: I think we have to be careful at reading too much into this, because we had talked, early on, that there are a number of lines of inquiry. There’s a very intense and detailed investigation into the Russian Government and the intelligence agencies that resulted in the indictments of a number of Russian individuals and companies. That was one line of cases that came out of the investigation. Then there’s the Manafort cases and the Gates cases. I think it is … I do think it’s very likely that Mueller is winding down, but I wouldn’t read too much into Andrew Weissmann leaving, particularly, because we see him on the record in the Manafort case. He was the senior person on the Mueller team, but he clearly was working on the Manafort case, which has ended.
Preet Bharara: Why don’t you call him up, ask him what’s going on?
Anne Milgram: You want to get him on the … Let’s get him on the line.
Preet Bharara: So we can report it here, on the inside. Not everyone has a direct …
Anne Milgram: Well, he’s coming back to NYU with both of us.
Preet Bharara: Maybe we can ask him then.
Anne Milgram: Yeah, over lunch. Are you going to wire up?
Preet Bharara: I may.
Anne Milgram: The other counter to the investigation ending, which I’m not sure of how strongly I feel about this, but they did execute search warrants on Roger Stone, on his house in Florida, on his apartment.
Preet Bharara: Who claims he never deleted anything.
Anne Milgram: Right.
Preet Bharara: So there should be a lot of material there.
Anne Milgram: Then the question for you and I would be, if there is something … Let’s say there’s nothing that comes out of it. Okay, that closes that part of the investigation potentially. But if there is something, and you and I have seen a million times, probably, that you do a search warrant, you get evidence, and it leads you to new witnesses and new evidence. Sometimes there’s an additional crime, sometimes there isn’t, but it often takes time and effort to pursue those leads.
Anne Milgram: There’s also still the outstanding subpoena fight between Mueller’s team and the unknown state run company that went to the Supreme Court. There are pieces out there that just sort of … And I think Bob Mueller will be extraordinarily thorough. I do think that Mueller is winding down, but I, personally, don’t think it’s over. Now, cut to this afternoon, the report comes out and we will have, probably, humiliated ourselves.
Preet Bharara: Not today, I got a …
Anne Milgram: Tomorrow, during your book announcement.
Preet Bharara: I’ve got a book launch.
Anne Milgram: What do you think? You think it’s over? Coming soon?
Preet Bharara: I tend to think not, but I am persuaded by people who say that when we talk about the work of the special counsel, we’re talking about the investigative work, or the new stuff, that gets up to a charge. Once charges have happened, and/or investigations with charges, potentially, on the horizon get siphoned off to other offices, Bob Mueller can wind down. I don’t know that I believe it-
Anne Milgram: I agree with that.
Preet Bharara: But I think that seems plausible to me. But I keep going back to the regulation that we have talked about here, on the show. We said, sometimes it’s good to go back to the actual primary source that says, “When the work of the special counsel is done, he shall provide a report, confidential report to the Attorney General.” And given all these other things going on, I don’t know how you plausibly can say that the work is done. I mean, at a minimum, Rick Gates, another 60 days. I don’t know why he has to be on any fast time table. It maybe, as you say, that people have personal reasons. They’ve been doing it for two years and, mostly, he was overseeing Manafort, and the thought, “Well, that’s a discreet moment, and an inflection point, where I can leave.”
Preet Bharara: I’ve seen that happen before. US attorneys sometimes leave jobs in the middle of investigations, because there’s never a good time to leave, and maybe he has other fish to fry.
Anne Milgram: Yeah. I do think that there’s still some questions outstanding that haven’t been closed. The answer maybe that some of these things never get completely resolved, but I do think Mueller will run every lead down before the report gets sent out.
Preet Bharara: Last point on this. The House passed a resolution, 420 to zero, saying that Barr should make the Mueller report public.
Anne Milgram: Yeah, I agree.
Preet Bharara: Do you think that was a wild vote?
Anne Milgram: I was a little surprised by the number of folks from the Republican Party that joined.
Preet Bharara: Do you think the nature of the vote indicates that they were smoking weed?
Anne Milgram: Which is now, isn’t it legal in D.C., now? Yes, I mean, but it’s telling. I think it’s a reflection of a country that people want to see the report. I think that, that is true-
Preet Bharara: Yeah, but I worry it’s might be a BS vote.
Anne Milgram: You think, how so?
Preet Bharara: That a lot of Republicans are thinking that, on this vote, they can say they’re in favor of transparency-
Anne Milgram: Because they know it may never happen.
Preet Bharara: It will never happen, and what will happen immediately? Lindsey Graham, basically, blocked a vote on such a thing in the Senate. I think some people are probably trying to have it both ways. They know it’s really not going to harm the President, because it’s not going to come to pass, because it won’t happen in the Senate.
Anne Milgram: So, before we go, let’s do a question from a listener. We have a question from Susan, which is, do subscribers to Café Insider get credit for one year of legal studies for each year they listen to the Insider podcast? If not, why not? Maybe credit for one course?
Preet Bharara: No. You get five years of credit.
Anne Milgram: For each year.
Preet Bharara: For every one year. Listen to the Insider podcast.
Anne Milgram: You probably, and I can attest to this.
Preet Bharara: We pack it in.
Anne Milgram: We pack it in, and when you go to law school, you read a lot of cases, and sometimes you finish them, and you’re like, “What does that mean?” So, you spend a lot of time reading a lot of cases, and trying to put it all together, and we’re just breaking it down. I agree. It’s an accelerated course.
Preet Bharara: Here’s a question that came by email from Tracy Williams. Tracy asks, “Are judges purposefully keeping sentencing low as to prevent any of the rulings being overturned, or possibly to dissuade POTUS from considering a pardon?”
Anne Milgram: No, I don’t think so. I think this is probably, in reference to the Manafort sentencings, where he’s now facing seven and a half years, when you look at the sentences from Judge Ellis in the Eastern District of Virginia, and from Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington DC. That, together, he’ll face about seven and a half years, which compared to the sentence and guidelines, and we talked about this last week, are considerably less than the 19 to 24 he was facing before Judge Ellis, or the maximum of 10, he was facing before Judge Berman Jackson.
Anne Milgram: I think that, of course, judges consider a number of things when they sentence someone, but I don’t think that, that’s the case that’s happening here. I mean, first of all, a pardon is a pretty extraordinary measure. It’s not common. So most judges … It’s not like it’s something that happens all the time, that judges would start to factor in, as a regular question. Second, judges really are sworn to uphold the law and to, basically, decide what they think the appropriate sentence is, based on the facts before them, the individual before them. And the pardon is really outside of that.
Preet Bharara: I agree with that. And, by and large, judges follow what they’re supposed to follow, but I don’t think it would apply in this context, the way the question was asked. But there are occasions, I write about one in the book, where sometimes a judge will undertake to put something in an opinion, or a decision, or not, because they’re seeking to avoid being overturned by an appellate court. It does happen and you just have to be mindful of it, if you’re a prosecutor or a participant in the system, in front of the judge.
Anne Milgram: I have one question on the pardon. Do you think, politically, Trump can do it before he leaves office, or before he’s … I see two timeframes. One is, let’s say he does not get reelected, like the Marc Rich thing with Bill Clinton, as he’s walking out the door. The other option is Trump is reelected and then-
Preet Bharara: He can do it then.
Anne Milgram: Exactly.
Preet Bharara: Because he’s a one-and-done.
Anne Milgram: What do you think? Is it possible he does it before that?
Preet Bharara: Yeah. Look …
Anne Milgram: One of those two time periods.
Preet Bharara: I can’t predict what this person will do. I think it also depends on who else is caught up. Imagine if someone closer to him is charged with a crime, for example, Jared Kushner, or maybe even his son. If that happens, I think all bets are off. Then he might engage in a blanket pardon of all sorts of people, and do other things in his anger. I think it’s just hard to predict. That’s all the time we have today.
Anne Milgram: We’ll be back next week, and send us your questions, at firstname.lastname@example.org.