The Media’s ‘Canonization’ of Preet Bharara

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The news media took part in a “canonization” of former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of Manhattan, who insisted that President Trump fire him after refusing to resign, writes Jack Shafer in Politico. The Associated Press quoted Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as tweeting that Bharara was “a fearless prosecutor who stands up to both parties and Wall Street,” and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was widely quoted as calling Bharara an “exemplary U.S. Attorney.” The New York Times acknowledged that Bharara had been accused by one appeals court of “overreach” and had a way with ginning up publicity for his investigations. The Times recounted that when Bharara was asked, “What again is your jurisdiction, exactly?” His answer was, “Are you familiar with Earth?”

By demanding to be fired, Bharara made himself a martyr, but a martyr for what?, Shafer asks. The independence that Bharara imagines is, as the historical record tells us, provisional, so he’s a fool to martyr himself in its honor. Not every reporter bought into Bharara’s martyrdom line. Jesse Eisinger of ProPublica judged his Wall Street investigations as “less aggressive” than his ones against political corruption. On Wall Street, Bharara went after hedge funds, which are “safer targets” than the giant banks. “Insider trading cases,” a Bharara specialty, “are relatively easy to win and don’t address systemic abuses that helped bring down the financial system,” ProPublica said.

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