Preet Bharara Goes to the Theater and Sees a Familiar World on Stage

[ad_1]

His handling of the Cohen case, in particular, in which Mr. Cohen’s hedge fund, SAC Capital Advisors, pleaded guilty to insider trading and paid a record $1.8 billion penalty, made him something of a household name, landing him on the cover of Time (as well as on the list of its 100 Most Influential People of 2012) and even reportedly inspiring the character of Chuck Rhoades, played by Paul Giamatti, in “Billions.” A New Yorker 2016 profile, headlined “The Showman,” in print, was more direct in the web version: “The Man Who Terrifies Wall Street.”

That fame only increased after perhaps the most dramatic event in his legal career: being forced out of his position by President Trump on March 11. Mr. Bharara went on the offensive almost immediately, posting his version of events on the Twitter account he had started only five days earlier. “I did not resign,” Mr. Bharara stated. “Moments ago I was fired. Being the US Attorney will forever be the greatest honor of my life.” The tweet got 63,000 retweets and 133,000 likes. (He now has 495,000 Twitter followers.)

Since that acrimonious parting, Mr. Bharara has begun to build a nascent media empire. In addition to signing on as a visiting professor at New York University School of Law, he is also a paid commentator on CNN, has signed a book contract with Knopf (the thought of the July deadline for his manuscript is “a bit scary,” he said), and has started a podcast, “Stay Tuned With Preet Bharara,” with his brother Vinit, a technology entrepreneur.

And he has kept up his gimlet-eyed observations of the Trump administration. “If Donald Trump fires Robert Mueller, he should be impeached,” Mr. Bharara tweeted on Oct. 31. “Period.”

At the “Junk” opening, Mr. Bharara, dressed in a Boss suit and a Canali tie (close to, but not quite the “Brooks Brothers and Brioni” uniform of the predatory Wall Street “kings” cited in the play’s opening lines), seemed as much as celebrity as the some of the actors who had also been invited, among them Gretchen Mol, David Schwimmer, Jonathan Groff and Aasif Mandvi.

As Mr. Bharara stood in the lobby during intermission, quickly downing a double vodka and tonic before the second act began, a steady stream of fans came over to pay tribute: “Thank you for your service.” “You have done great work.” “We need more people like you.” “I just wanted the chance to shake your hand.” (And at the after-party at Tavern on the Green, one particularly effusive woman said to Mr. Bharara: “You are a buoy in the roiled waters of these troubled times.”)

Does this kind of thing occur often? Mr. Bharara was asked.

“Yes,” he said. “This is what happens when you are fired by the president.”

As he walked back to his seat, pointed the way by an usher who said she had once worked for Bear Stearns, Mr. Bharara noticed that the stage was now dominated by a huge Time cover featuring the image of the Steven Pasquale, the actor playing the Michael Milken-like character. “My picture was better,” Mr. Bharara said, laughing.

Once seated, he said that he was enjoying the play (“It’s quite well written”) and added that one scene in particular seemed especially knowing about the world he once inhabited — one that showed a government informant fumbling his attempts to draw out incriminating statements from his boss in a wiretapped phone conversation.

“There is a lot of speculation right now about whether George Papadopoulos was wearing a wire, people saying that if he wore a wire, he must have gotten good information,” Mr. Bharara said of the man who recently pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. as part of the Robert Mueller investigation into the 2016 election. “And I was trying explain to people that just because someone wears a wire — if he was wearing a wire — doesn’t mean you are going get anything good.”

“Sometimes you have very good actors and they draw other bad guys in,” he said. “But sometimes you have a halting, nervous, unsuccessful attempt. They go into a meeting and they ask too many questions — like that character did tonight — and they get told, ‘stop with the questions!’ and you walk away with nothing. That’s what went on it that scene. It rang totally true.”

(The playwright and Mr. Bharara had met briefly in the lobby before the play started, with Mr. Akhtar telling Mr. Bharara: “You are such a hero to me, not just because our shared background,” referring to their South Asian heritage, “but also because of all you have done for this country.”)

At the after-party, a surprising number of people wanted to talk about Mr. Bharara’s podcast, which seems to have attracted a devoted following in its short tenure.

“Preet? You are Preet, aren’t you?” an elegantly dressed woman called out as Mr. Bharara passed by on his way to the buffet station of sliders and french fries. She beckoned him over to her table. “I just wanted to tell you I love your podcast,” she said. “It’s just tremendous.”

“Thank you,” Mr. Bharara said. “It’s No. 5 on iTunes this week.” Then he laughed, and added, “Not that I’m checking.

With that, he was soon out the door, on his way home to Westchester.

He left his last words for Twitter, posting this review the next morning: “I thoroughly enjoyed the new play ‘Junk’ by Pulitzer Prize winner @ayadakhtar. Insider trading brought to the stage …”

Correction: November 4, 2017

An earlier version of this piece misstated the location of Preet Bharara’s home. It is in Westchester, not Connecticut.

Continue reading the main story



[ad_2]

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *