In his first public appearance since being fired, India-born former top federal prosecutor Preet Bharara took swipes at President Donald Trump, saying “you don't drain a swamp with a slogan” and poked fun at his fixation on crowd sizes.
During an hour-long speech at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art here, Bharara used wit as well as brutal criticism as he offered his thoughts about the Trump administration and reflected on his 7.5 year journey as the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Bharara, who was fired by the Trump administration last month, used the President's popular campaign slogan to “drain the swamp” to offer a brutal criticism of the new administration and its way of working.
“There is a swamp, a lot of the system is rigged and lots of your fellow Americans have been forgotten and have been left behind. Those are not alternative facts. That is not fake news,” the 48-year-old said to a packed hall.
“But I would respectfully submit you don't drain a swamp with a slogan. You don't drain it by replacing one set of partisans with another. You don't replace muck with muck. To drain a swamp you need an Army Corps of Engineers, experts schooled in service and serious purpose, not do-nothing, say-anything neophyte opportunists who know a lot about how to bully and bluster but not so much about truth, justice and fairness.”
“Draining a swamp takes genuine commitment to justice and fairness and not attention to what benefits one group over another or divides one group against another,” he said.
Bharara began 'The John Jay Iselin Memorial Lecture' on Thursday by taking a dig at Trump's fixation with crowd sizes, saying the audience for his own event was much bigger than the one that showed up for former President Barack Obama.
“This actually seems like a very great and welcoming crowd. This is like the largest sell-out crowd of my career,” Bharara said, adding that the last time he was in the Cooper Union hall was about seven years ago when Obama was there to give a speech.
“I just want to say one thing for the record in front of everyone about crowd size,” Bharara said amid huge round of applause and laughter.
“I don't care what the picture shows. My crowd is a lot bigger than Obama's crowd, much bigger than Obama's crowd. From where I stand here, it looks to be about 1-1.5 million people. It's a really huge crowd. Look that's the information I was given,” he said.
He was referring to Trump's constant bragging of how the size of the crowd at his inauguration was much bigger than that at the time of Obama's swearing-in ceremony in 2009.
Bharara acknowledged the presence of some of his former colleagues, including some from his press office who he said “were the only people who stood between me and the dishonest media,” in another swipe at Trump. “That's called tongue and cheek,” Bharara said.
He also thanked New York University's School of Law for giving him a job as the distinguished scholar in residence.
“My father-in-law was really happy to hear that I was going to have a job,” he said.
During the lecture, Bharara reflected on his time as Manhattan's top federal prosecutor and his office's accomplishments in rooting out corruption and fighting terrorism and insider trading cases.
He said he has no complaints and remorse and his term as US Attorney will be the “greatest professional honour of my life.”
Even when Bharara was in office, he repeatedly dismissed speculation that he will eventually run for public office and reiterated that he will not enter politics.
“I don't have any plans to enter politics just like I had no plans to join the circus. I mean no offense to the circus,” he said to laughter from the audience.
Bharara called on American citizens to unite and continue the fight against injustice, saying active citizenship matters and is “desperately needed now more than ever, individually and collectively.”
“In this time of antagonism and polarisation, in this time of head-strong faith that your side is always right and the other side is always wrong,” Bharara cited the example of processes in a court of law where both sides have the right to present arguments and to challenge arguments. He said a court “let's both sides do so without fear of being shouted down or shut down.”