Preet Bharara made a name for himself as Wall Street's top cop. He's now hosting a podcast for an entertainment website known for political parody.
Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who was fired by President Donald Trump in March, this week launched "Stay Tuned with Preet," a weekly podcast about "justice and fairness," according to its description. The series is being produced by WNYC Studios, Pineapple Street Media and CAFE, a media brand that made a name for itself during the 2016 election with a parody political pundit and comedic video compilations of figures such as Alex Jones and Gary Johnson.
"In March of this year, Donald Trump fired me. So what the hell do I do now?" Bharara says in a video promoting the podcast where he jokingly interviews himself. "Podcast baby."
"Were you insulted by when the president fired you?" Bharara, dressed in a t-shirt, asks.
"A little bit," Bharara, dressed in a suit and tie, responds.
"Do you miss subpoena power?" casual Bharara asks.
"Yeah, yeah I do," business Bharara responds.
Bharara, 48, has become an increasingly visible figure since his surprise ouster along with all of the other serving U.S. attorneys by Trump earlier this year.
Dubbed the man "busting Wall Street" in 2012 by Time Magazine, Bharara made a name for himself as a securities fraud and insider trading enforcer. He met with Trump in Trump Tower in Manhattan in November and at the time told reporters he had agreed to stay on per Trump's request, rendering his firing extra shocking.
Bharara discussed his ouster in the first episode of his podcast this week, explaining that if he had stayed on, he believes Trump would have asked him "to do something inappropriate."
"I will tell you one thing, now that it's been some months," he said. "I believe based on the information that we have on the president talking to Jim Comey relating to Michael Flynn, the information about the president talking to Jeff Sessions about the case of Joe Arpaio, and how he wanted both of those cases to go away -- that had I not been fired, and had Donald Trump continued to cultivate a direct personal relationship with me, it's my strong belief that at some point, given the history, the President of the United States would have asked me to do something inappropriate."
And audiences are apparently interested in hearing what Bharara has to say: "Stay Tuned with Preet" is currently the top-rated podcast in Apple (AAPL) iTunes. His first episode featured an interview with former Defense Secretary, CIA Director and White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta.
"Luckily, being a prosecutor translates well to a performance gene," Dean Cappello, executive vice president and chief content officer at WNYC, told TheStreet. "You can hear it -- it's both a charismatic and warm personality that has translated really well into the show so far."
Bharara is part of a growing chorus of former government officials pushed out by Trump who are now among his top foes and critics. The group includes former Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and former FBI Director James Comey. Bharara and Shaub have joined CNN as contributors.
Bharara has demonstrated a flair for comedy on Twitter, specifically when it comes to Trump and those in his orbit.
When pursuing a corrupt politician, mobster or murderer on strong FBI evidence, if he "vehemently denied it," we just dropped it usually. https://t.co/d4HqyHQexB— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) July 9, 2017
Also we might celebrate the ability of immigrant spelling bee contestants to know that "oppressive" has only one "r." Build a wwallll. https://t.co/zAed69PxYM— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) July 5, 2017
That will be put to good use at CAFE, which Bharara's younger brother, Vinit, launched in 2014. The comedy and entertainment brand is now under the umbrella of Some Spider Studios, which Vinit Bharara runs and Preet Bharara joined as an adviser over the summer.
CAFE gained notoriety during the 2016 election in part through the success of its parody political pundit, Carl Diggler, who was profiled in outlets such as The New Yorker and Complex. "Khizr Khan Has Inspired me to Tell Donald Trump 'I Am Not a Cuck!'" reads one of Diggler's campaign headlines. "My Return To Hillary's War Room, Home of the Pneumonia Card" reads another.
CAFE also produced witty and, at times crass, politically-themed content.
Well, at least one job will be created under President Trump: guy in charge of finding Paul Ryan's balls. pic.twitter.com/8uL3PfPk2A— CAFE (@cafedotcom) November 2, 2016
The company, which is headquartered in New York, recently opened an office in Los Angeles.
After 2016 and with Bharara's onboarding, CAFE has sought to tone its content down some due to sensitivities about the former U.S. attorney being promoted. Post-election, the team is still doing comedy and is working on new web series and sketches, though much of its content is less politically-focused.
In one recent video as part of its "Problem Solved" series, writer Rob Whisman lays out a way to solve the North Korea conflict. "We un-retire Dennis Rodman from the NBA," he says.
Bharara's podcast has the potential to appeal to "people who have a sort of deep interest in politics, people who like the juicy inside story of something that happened, and then to people who just discover him because he's in close proximity to the other things we do," Cappello said. WNYC produces and distributes a number of other podcasts, including "Here's the Thing" with Alec Baldwin and "2 Dope Queens," hosted by comedians Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams, formerly of "The Daily Show" fame.
"If this works out really well, I could imagine that Preet starts to define [CAFE's] work as much as anybody else defines their work," he said.
"CAFE has always been about purpose driven entertainment -- a place to look at the world more closely to make sure it's rotating on its axis, consistent with basic, universal values," said Vinit Bharara in an email to TheStreet. "We've used comedy to break through and will continue to do so, since it can be so effective to make our points. But we're always open to show more entertainment range than pure comedy, if we think it will work. No one is more purpose driven than Preet and few can break through as effectively as he can -- so it was a perfect fit. Plus, Preet can be pretty damn funny sometimes."
Bharara this week posted a video this week responding to Trump aide Stephen Miller's dismissal of Emma Lazarus' Statue of Liberty poem, which he at an August press briefing noted was "added on later."
"You know what else was added on later?" Bharara says. "The f---ing Bill of Rights."
Remember that time Trump adviser Stephen Miller dismissed Emma Lazarus's Statue of Liberty poem ("Give us your poor...) as just an add-on? pic.twitter.com/HSDl3f7Wo1— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) September 21, 2017