A month after he was fired by the Trump administration, one of the most successful prosecutors in the country spoke out against the “do-nothing, say-anything” culture on corruption.
Preet Bharara, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, built a reputation as “the enforcer of Wall Street.” In his seven and a half years in office, he went on to take down more than a dozen corrupt politicians, including two of New York state’s most powerful players (Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos).
On Thursday, he spoke publicly for the first time since being fired by Trump after refusing to step down. He was direct in his comments on the lack of transparency and ethical conduct he sees in the Trump administration.
“I would respectfully submit you don’t drain a swamp with a slogan. You don’t drain it by replacing one set of partisans with another. You don’t replace muck with muck. To drain a swamp, you need an army corps of engineers. Experts schooled in service and serious purpose,” he said at Cooper Union in New York City. “Not do-nothing, say-anything neophyte opportunists who know a lot about how to bully and bluster but not a lot about truth, justice and fairness.”
Trump was the target of further jabs as he described his own family’s immigrant story, recounting attending a naturalization ceremony as a guest with his parents recently.
“Each one is a fire of hope and promise not only for new citizens but for long time Americans,” he said. “Events like those, and what they represent and what they inspire, they make america great.”
In an interview with the New York Times earlier on Thursday, Bharara said he was asked to resign by the Trump administration after being told in November that he would be asked to stay. He told the paper that he received three calls from the incoming president in the interim. The third call he did not return because a newly inaugurated president reaching out personally to a federal prosecutor whose jurisdiction covers that president’s business affairs, he said, seemed improper.
The next day, he was asked to step down.
Bharara insisted he won’t run for public office. He’s currently a distinguished scholar in residence at NYU’s School of Law.