Read below for my conversation with Preet Bharara, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and author of the new book Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law.
Katie Couric: What was your initial reaction to Barr’s summary? What surprised you?
Preet Bharara:I was initially surprised that Bob Mueller did not take a position on the question of obstruction of justice. It seems that Mueller was punting to Congress but Barr interfered with this not unreasonable approach by running on the field, grabbing the football, and taking it in for a touchdown for Trump.
What needs to happen now? Should the full report be released?
The public should see as much of the Mueller’s full report as possible after proper redactions for classified and grand jury information.
As an attorney, how would you assess Mueller’s performance throughout this process?
Bob Mueller is an American hero and a by-the-book lawman who follows the facts. Before he was appointed, he already had an extraordinary career in public service, so he didn’t have anything to prove. He served our country for 22 months in a thankless job, and we all owe him an enormous debt of gratitude for his service.
This book is about law and justice, but it’s not specifically meant for lawyers and the legal community. Who is the reader you had in mind while you were writing?
This book is written for anyone who cares about justice. It is less about the law itself, but more about the principles and moral questions that arise from the pursuit of justice, and the people who fulfill that mission. It is not a book for practitioners, but for those who regularly wrestle with questions of fairness in their everyday lives. In that way, it is a book that should resonate with everyone.
Your very public firing by Donald Trump as U.S. Attorney launched you to “rock star” status (according to the WP- and I agree!), but you don’t discuss him directly very much in the book. Why not?
A book about Trump is not the book I wanted to write. It was not the book that was in my head or my heart. This book, which articulates the basic principles that undergird our society’s understanding of justice, explores ideas and dilemmas that are not unique to a single President and, hopefully, are sure to outlast any single presidency.
I love this line, “Every element of the law is dependent on the fateful choices of unpredictable and imperfect human beings from the cops to the lawyers to the judges to the cooperators. It is the human factor that makes the attempt to deliver justice uncertain.” Why is it so important for us to remember this human factor? Why do we so often tend to forget?
Even if we regularly forget it, the truth is that justice is only accomplished by people. The law is powerless without thoughtful and rigorous people working to carry out its creed. When we forget that, we forget who our laws are supposed to serve: people. As one of my heroes Clarence Darrow said, “Freedom comes from human beings, rather than from laws and institutions.”