Celebrity Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara seemed to keep the door open to becoming attorney general if Hillary Clinton wins the White House during an appearance Friday at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
“I’ll wait till that happens,” Bharara said in response to a question near the end of a 30-minute appearance at the American Justice Summit, a session devoted to discussion of current criminal justice issues.
Bharara also briefly discussed his status as the model for the prosecutor played by Paul Giamatti on the new Showtime hit show “Billions.”
“I guess it’s pretty cool,” he said. “It’s a highly fictionalized account. Some of those things don’t actually happen.”
Asked about the recent Albany political corruption trials of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Bharara was asked if there were an “aha!” moment when the cases crystallized.
He said the moment that stuck out as a sign they were on the “right track” was when he heard Skelos’ son Adam complain to his father on a wiretap that he couldn’t speak freely because “it’s like [expletive] Preet Bharara is listening to every [expletive] phone call.”
“That was a moment that was interesting,” said Bharara, who also said he wasn’t sure Skelos could have been prosecuted without the court-approved wiretaps.
“If we didn’t have the wiretaps with respect to the Senate majority leader, I’m not sure we would have been able to make that case,” Bharara said.
In other remarks, Bharara defended the failure to prosecute Wall Street bigwigs for the financial collapse — his office couldn’t make a case, he said — and criticized the 2010 decision to try Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed at Guantánamo Bay military prison instead of Manhattan federal court.
History, he said, has shown that the political pressure and fear about handling a high-profile terror trial in Manhattan was misplaced, while a military trial of Mohammed has repeatedly delayed justice for the families of 9/11 victims.
“My office has convicted terrorist after terrorist after terrorist . . . over and over again while Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is awaiting his first pretrial hearing,” he said.