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Fired US Attorney Bharara starting podcast on justice

Last Updated Sep 19, 2017 at 3:00 pm EDT

FILE - In this June 8, 2017, file photo, former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara arrives before former FBI director James Comey testifies at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Bharara told USA Today for an article published on Sept. 18, 2017, that he is launching a new podcast called "Stay Tuned With Preet." (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

NEW YORK, N.Y. – New York’s Preet Bharara, who says he knows nothing more about why President Donald Trump fired him as U.S. attorney than on the day it happened, is about to step back into the spotlight with a podcast on justice issues.

The podcast, “Stay Tuned with Preet,” debuts Wednesday with Leon Panetta as the first guest.

Bharara served in the high-profile role of U.S. attorney for New York’s Southern District, where he prosecuted Wall Street insiders and New York politicians. He was fired March 11, after refusing to resign, as part of a wholesale housecleaning of U.S. attorneys by the new administration. It would not have seemed unusual had Bharara not been told by Trump shortly after the election that he would be kept on.

“If at some point the tale unfolds as to why it happened, I’d be as curious as anyone to understand it,” Bharara said in an interview. “But I don’t have any insight at the moment.”

Bharara was placed in a similar awkward position as fired FBI Director James Comey when it came to contact with Trump. Besides their Trump Tower meeting on Nov. 30, Bharara said he talked twice on the telephone with the president-elect. But after Trump was inaugurated and called on March 9, Bharara didn’t return the call because he felt it improper for the president and a U.S. attorney to talk.

“I thought it was notable that he kept calling me,” he said. “I didn’t like it.”

He said he cleared his initial meeting with Trump in November with then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and aide Steve Bannon were in the meeting. Bharara said he told Trump he would continue to act as independently as he had been and “he said, basically, I understand and I’d love to have you stay on.”

“Nobody owes me anything,” he said. “There are a lot of things that are happening that are more important than my departure, including the FBI director’s departure, where I think it’s important that the truth comes out. And I think there’s a particular gentleman who is working on that.”

Bharara said he had no insight into Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the administration’s Russian ties.

“He’s running a tight ship,” he said. “It’s a group of really, really great all-stars, legal all-stars, trial all-stars, investigative all-stars. They know what they’re doing. They will not hesitate to walk away from bringing a charge, notwithstanding public clamour, if it doesn’t serve the interest of justice, and they won’t hesitate to bring one, either.”

Bharara has kept a public profile since leaving primarily through his Twitter feed, where he hasn’t hesitated to criticize Trump.

He has gone to work for Some Spider Studios, his brother Vinit’s media company. The company owns CAFE, which is launching the podcast. To start, he has a deal with WNYC for 20 episodes, and an option for 10 more.

The show will focus on justice issues, which could be as broad as a discussion about punishment in America, or as specific as some of the cases Bharara was involved in as U.S. attorney, as long as they’ve been resolved.

“If there comes a week when Jeff Sessions gets fired by the president of the United States, I can’t imagine that we won’t be talking about it,” he said. But he said the podcast is not a Trump-focused exercise.

He insists he has no political plans. He’s endorsed two candidates because he knows them personally: Seattle mayoral hopeful Jenny Durkan, a former fellow U.S. attorney, and Timothy Sini, who worked in his office and is running for Suffolk County district attorney. Both are Democrats.

“I’m not planning to go out and campaign, for one party or another or candidates generally, but if they are good people that I know well and that I trust and believe in, I will ask people to vote for them,” he said.