Preet Bharara speaks with reporters at Trump Tower after meeting then-US President-elect Donald Trump in November, 2016.
Timothy A. Clary / AFP / Getty Images
In his first major public speech since he was fired as the US attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara didn't hold back when it came to his former boss, President Trump, criticizing his rhetoric while also poking fun.
“From where I’m standing, looks to be about one to 1.5 million people,” Bharara said Thursday as he jokingly overestimated the crowd size, something Trump did repeatedly on the campaign trail.
After the laughter subsided, he added, “Look, that’s the information I was given.”
Bharara made the comments before a sold-out crowd at the Great Hall of Cooper Union at New York City University, not far from the federal courthouse where he made his name as a hard-charging prosecutor who became the scourge of white collar crime on Wall Street.
Nearly a month ago, Bharara and 45 other US attorneys were asked to submit their resignations immediately. After Bharara refused, he was fired, something he told the crowd he “insisted on.”
“I don’t really understand why that was such a big deal, especially to this White House,” Bharara said, referring to Trump's catch phrase during his time on NBC's The Apprentice. “I had thought that was what Donald Trump was good at.”
In an interview with the New York Times that also published Thursday, Bharara called his firing “a direct example of the kind of uncertain helter-skelter incompetence” of the Trump team, adding that he was still unclear on why he was pushed out.
Just days after his dismissal, ProPublica reported that Bharara’s office was probing suspicious stock trades made by Tom Price, Trump’s secretary of health and human services. ProPublica also reported that, according to a source close to Bharara’s former office, the Southern District of New York was investigating trades made by then-congressman Price for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth in shares of health-related companies while he voted and worked on legislation affecting the industry.
“I know nothing about that whatsoever,” Price said, responding to the allegations in an interview with ABC News.
Bharara worked in many subtle jabs at Trump while discussing current political issues important to the president, including immigration.
Bharara, an Indian immigrant who arrived in America as an infant, told the crowd a story of one of his proudest moments as a US attorney: when he was asked to preside over the swearing in of a group of 75 American citizens. He brought his whole family, who got to lead the pledge of allegiance at the end of the ceremony.
“If those kinds of ceremonies become more rare, I think that would be tragic,” Bharara said. “They make America great.”
Speaking directly to the Trump administration’s current stand on immigration, Bharara warned the crowd “to pay careful attention to what’s being said, and what’s not being said,” adding that throughout history, “intolerant folks” have made “people feel unwelcome.”
Bharara pulled no punches when he discussed Trump’s rallying cry that this administration will “drain the swamp” and fix Washington.
“Your country needs your leadership to. Because you know what, there is a swamp, a lot of the system is rigged, and a lot of your fellow citizens have been left behind,” Bharara said. “Those are not alternative facts. It’s not fake news.”
“You don’t drain a swamp with a slogan,” he added. “To drain a swamp, you need an Army Corp of Engineers — not do nothing, say nothin', neophyte opportunists who know a lot about how to bully and bluster, but nothing about truth justice and fairness.”
Since his firing, it’s been rumored Bharara might be eyeing a future in politics, possibly as a candidate for governor of New York. Be he reiterated that he has no plans to run.
“I have no plans to enter politics, just like I have no plans to join the circus,” Bharara said. “And I mean, no offense to the circus.”