Preet Bharara dishes on Springsteen, Yankees and his legal role models
Preet Bharara dishes on Springsteen, Yankees and his legal role models
In the final part of City & State's three-part interview with the hard charging U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the prosecutor shows a lighter side of the man who has struck fear into many New York politicians. He talks about his love for Springsteen, recent books he has read and some of his favorite things. Below is an edited transcript.
C&S: Okay, I’m going to ask you a couple of softer questions now. I know you’re a big Bruce Springsteen fan. Have you seen him in concert recently, and what’s your favorite song?
PB: My favorite song is not an uncommon song, it’s “Thunder Road.” And I just saw Bruce two nights ago at Metlife Stadium with my whole family, including my kids.
C&S: That was the marathon concert, right?
PB: Yeah, somebody said it was the longest concert ever. It was going on close to four hours. He ends with Shout usually at the other three concerts I’ve seen him at, and we tried to get a jump on the bathroom because I had my kids with me, and we walk out of our seats and it turns out he continued to play, so we ran back in. My favorite moment in the concert was, well first we didn’t have great seats, but there was a group of guys, and about an hour one of them turns around and asks, “Are these your kids?” I said, “Yes they are,” and he says, “You’re raising them right!” and then he hi-fived me, which I think my kids liked a lot.
C&S: That wasn’t Chris Christie was it?
PB: Um, no.
C&S: You didn’t see him there?
PB: I did not.
C&S: Are you a bigger Bruce fan than Chris Christie?
PB: I don’t know if he’s a bigger fan, but if measured by number of concerts attended, he probably wins.
C&S: How many have you attended, more than a dozen?
PB: Yea, like 30 or 40. I think he’s in triple digits though.
C&S: What Bruce Springsteen concert was your first one?
PB: I didn’t go until fairly late in life, because for various reasons I didn’t go to concerts when I was younger, so about 15, 16 years ago. But Bruce Springsteen albums were among my first albums.
C&S: Do you still have LPs?
PB: I do, they’re somewhere in a garage. I’m not sure I have the ability to play them anymore.
C&S: What other musical tastes do you have?
PB: I like a lot of classic rock. Actually in my office I have a little radio which is generally on classic rock all the time.
C&S: Which station?
PB: 104.3. It just calms me down. I find it impossible to work without it. I think I used to do my algebra homework on my bed in junior high with classic rock playing. There were a lot more classic rock stations in those days, fewer now, but they still exist.
C&S: What other bands come to mind that you like?
PB: I like a lot of bands. I used to be a huge U2 fan, still am. Again, I don’t go to a lot of concerts, I go to a lot of Bruce concerts, the only other concert I’ve been to recently is U2.
C&S: And what about the Beatles, who is your favorite Beatle?
C&S: And why is that? You said that very assuredly.
PB: Well I think most reasonable people would say John. I think he’s the most talented songwriter, I think his solo career was the best, I think he has the most iconic songs. But I have nothing against the other guys.
C&S: Gotcha, well I’m a George fan. So who is your favorite lawyer or prosecutor in history? Besides Clarence Darrow, of course.
PB: I think there are a lot of people I admire and respect. I’ve often thought what Bobby Kennedy did even before he was attorney general and then as attorney general, how he was tough and fearless, cared about doing right by the people who he represented, but also understood what kindness was about. Later in life cared about poverty and social justice issues. We, in this office – it’s interesting people spend a lot of time … You, the reason you're interviewing me is because you care about the public corruption work, some other people care about our terrorism work. Some other people care about our Wall Street prosecutions. We do a whole bunch of other things, too, including vindicating people's civil rights, including trying to reform Rikers Island, including trying to get money back for vulnerable people who've lost money, including trying to make sure people who are disabled are able to go to a Yankees game or go eat at a restaurant in Times Square. We do a lot of things in this office that’s about justice in the sense that we are fighting for people who are the underdog and don't have people to fight for them. Not just the high profile prosecutions of politicians.
C&S: You've also talked about being an admirer of Teddy Roosevelt. Why is that?
PB: I think Teddy Roosevelt was one of the most active, intelligent, forceful and thoughtful leaders we've ever had. Not only was he book smart – I think he wrote his first treatise on naval warfare when he as a very, very young man – but he also put his money where his mouth was and he actually did things. I love to talk about the time I took my daughter to see the Teddy Roosevelt home where he grew up on 20th Street because I used to live near there when my daughter was young. And we went to the museum and she got to see the shirt that he was wearing when he was giving a speech and was literally shot in the chest and didn't die because I think the bullet was deflected a little bit by the thickness of his speech and also by his glasses case. But unlike other people he continued to give the speech and finished it. So he was a person of not just moral conviction and courage but of physical conviction and courage.
C&S: So if he had Lasik and a teleprompter he’d be dead right?
PB: Probably so. Probably so.
C&S: Favorite restaurant in New York City?
PB: I’m not going to say my favorite restaurant.
C&S: Favorite food?
PB: I like all kinds of food. I love Indian food, understandably. I love Italian food. I love pretty much every kind of food.
C&S: Favorite movie?
PB: I can’t name one favorite.
C&S: A couple.
PB: I like the first two Godfathers. I like a lot of Tarantino. I like Goodfellas.
C&S: I see a trend here.
PB: Yeah, well. I have been on occasion made to watch a romantic comedy.
C&S: I have a feeling I know who did that. What about your favorite book that you read in the last year?
PB: That’s interesting. I don’t get to read a lot of fiction. I’ve been trying to read more fiction in the last year. I read “The Martian” before I saw the movie, which is a great page-turner, so I enjoyed that a lot. So I’ll go with “The Martian.”
C&S: What’s on your night table now?
PB: I picked up a couple different things. I started to reread “The Great Gatsby.” I’m trying to get my daughter to read “The Great Gatsby.” She’s 15, she reads a lot of young adult fiction. So I’m trying to make my way through that. I also picked up a Richard Price crime thriller called Lush Life, so I’m sort of simultaneously reading those two.
C&S: Have you watched that Richard Price HBO –
PB: Yeah, “The Night Of?”
C&S: Yeah,“The Night Of.” What do you think of that?
PB: I think it’s very well done. Excellent. We’ll see how it culminates, because as we’re taping this there’s one episode to go. But I think it’s very well done.
C&S: Is it an accurate depiction of prison and the whole system, do you think?
PB: I think everything is exaggerated for television. But it’s interesting. I’m watching it at the same time, by the way, as I’m also catching up on watching the ESPN documentary on O.J. It’s interesting to watch those two together given what I do now also.
C&S: Favorite sports team?
C&S: Yankees. Hate the Mets?
C&S: Not one of the Mets haters, right?
PB: No. I really don’t hate anyone.
C&S: Do you agree with the recent philosophy of going young on the Yankees?
PB: I like going young.
C&S: Do you miss George Steinbrenner Sr.?
C&S: Not at all?
PB: No. I thought these were going to be softballs. Now you’re getting me in trouble with lots of different people now.
C&S: Basketball? Do you have a favorite team in basketball?
PB: I like the Knicks
C&S: Any chance they're going to do well this year?
PB: You never know.
C&S: You never know. Great, thank you very much.
PB: Thank you, sir.