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tv   Preet Bharara Delivers Remarks at Cooper Union  CSPAN  April 12, 2017 2:32pm-3:42pm EDT

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congress carla hayden and archivist of the united states david verio. is 156 millionon objects including 2 million books and 154 million other things. and presidential historians at the green medford. and richard norton smith discuss presidential leadership. >> it is interesting that the isatest american president bracketed by the least successful american presidents. >> this holiday weekend on c-span. >> his first speech after being fired. and he gets his take on the trump administration. he was part of a group of prosecutors asked to resign by the justice department and was
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fired after he refused to resign. this event from cooper union in new york city is an hour. >> the man of the hour joins a long lineage of men and women who have broken barriers in this historic call. advancements in critical thinking, new ideas, and the voices of others that have been marginalized. some of the most important speakers in history have stood contest, andnt, shape the issues of their day. it is here that abraham lincoln made his famous speech arguing against the expansion of slavery and launching his bid for the presidency. stanton advocated and organized for the woman's right to vote. efforts to form the naacp took place here. it before they were elected, presidents lincoln, grant, cleveland, taft, theodore
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roosevelt, obama, and trump all spoke here. made his firston major economic speech here. a speech that is said to have set the course for his presidency. the list goes on. and so does the legacy of the great hall. important places tonight and congressman john lewis on may 11. in the auditorium where public discourse happens. it is a role the cooper union is proud to serve and has served for 150 years in our community, city, and nation. i joined as president in the beginning of january. and weather here in the great hall or watching live on our youtube channel, i welcome you. i hope you consider this the first of many cooper union experiences to come. many of you who are familiar to us, welcome back.
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an sure you agree that evening like this is quintessential cooper union. the cooper union is an american treasure. i say that because of our founder peter cooper's steadfast belief that education is key to personal prosperity and civic virtue. and that it should be available to all regardless of socioeconomic at ground, race, or gender. hewas ahead of his time when opened these doors in 1859. and in many ways, he still would be today. cooper union remains is true to his conviction as ever. believed that an education should be holistic. one that is not only technical or professional, not solely intellectual or creative, but an education that combines all of these for a more powerful result. enabling students to improve their lives and contribute to the greater public good. there is evidence of this in
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every program inside and outside of the classroom every day. union toounded cooper play an important role in the life of the city and country. to empower students to be active citizens engaged in important issues. this continues to be a central role for cooper union which brings me back to our guest this evening. , on federal prosecutor behalf of the united states. the u.s. attorneys that handle a high volume of cases that involve domestic and international terrorism, narcotics and arms trafficking, financial and health care fraud, cyber crime public corruption, gang violence, organized crime, and civil rights violations. leadership, the office experienced one of the most productive periods in history.
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he formed the terrorism and international arcot x-unit. unit.ernational narcotics convicted numerous insider trading defendants. his office brought charges corporations such as jp morgan chase for its relationship with made off securities and numerous high-ranking government officials. he also continued the civil rights work with initiatives like a multiyear investigation into the treatment of adolescent males at rikers island. in 2012, he was featured on the cover of time magazine and appeared on the list of 100 most influential people in the world. month,ll know, just last he was abruptly removed from his office here in manhattan as part of the transition to a new presidential administration. i might add that development made his talk here tonight one of the hottest tickets in town.
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[laughter] >> we couldn't be more proud to have him here at cooper union. please join me in welcoming mr. preet bharara. [applause] preet: thank you. thanks very much. thank you, president sparks, for that introduction. i want to thank margaret jacoby who i know put a lot of work into this event. i wasn't intimidated enough and then there was a video about all the people that spoke here. lincoln was mentioned like 18 times. i feel no pressure at all. it's been three and a half weeks or so since i was fired. for those of you that expected me to be in a david letterman
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style postemployment beard, i'm sorry to disappoint you. i was made to shave it this morning. actually, even though i cannot see in the back because of the darkness, a great and welcoming crowd. it figures that the first time in eight years i literally show up for an event where i can't , i get the largest sellout crowd in my career. i was saying backstage to the president and others, last time i was here in this great hall -- and this was true -- it was seven years ago. obama spoke about economic reform and economic regulation. i think i was sitting somewhere over there. i want to say one thing for the record in front of all of you and the youtube audience. about crowd size.
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[laughter] [applause] i don't care what the pictures show. my crowd is a lot bigger than obama's crowd. [laughter] much bigger than obama's crowd. from where i stand, it looks to be about one million to 1.5 million people. it's a huge crowd. [applause] look. that is the information i was given. [laughter] i want to a knowledge the great institution that cooper union is. it's a real privilege to be here in this historic call. and especially getting a lecture named after the great john j is
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len. i got to meet his wife and other members. it was an honor to see all of you and to be giving this talk in his name. john j is the great grandson of john j. great grandson of nobody famous. i am the son -- my parents are in the audience in the front. [applause] thanks, mom and dad. for all the things i'm supposed to thank you for. thank you. it's wonderful giving a talk.
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a pioneerow much of he was in respect of public television. when public television seems to be under attack. we'll give you bits of thanks. the chief of staff and special assistance, they are here somewhere. hillary,fman, sarah, thank you all for what you did for me. and for being patient. [applause] some formere is colleagues from my press office here. jim, don, and neck. for those that don't appreciate what that job is, they are the only people between me and the dishonest media.
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that is called tongue-in-cheek. there may be some colleagues of mine, former colleagues of mine, that are sitting in the third floor of the u.s. attorneys office. i believe they were drinking beer and eating korean chicken. which is great. please, when you're done with this, go back to work. i want to think in why you law lawol for giving -- nyu school for giving me a job. the rest of the faculty for having me on. my father-in-law was really happy to hear that i was going to have a job. [laughter] among other people. i want to give a more general in my to all the people old office, a place where -- i love that place like people love their family.
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i want to single out one person. division, the criminal chief, the deputy u.s. attorney, and the acting u.s. attorney for the southern district of new york. it june can is here -- june kim is here. [applause] he is the boss now and has the subpoena power. i want to say a couple things about jun. he's as fine a leader and legal mind as i know. he cares about the u.s. attorneys office and the department of justice just as much as i did. he is smarter than i am. people thinkt that incorrectly that things change because i'm gone, they are wrong about that. i don't know who the future leader of the office will be. leadership certainly matters. and as long as jun is in the office, everything we were doing
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, doing the right thing the right way for the right reasons. that office has trademark excellence, integrity, and independence. it will continue unabated. thank you for your leadership of the office. [applause] i'm no longer the u.s. attorney. that was established. there is a new york times article this afternoon -- briefly. i was asked to resign. i refused. i insisted on being fired. so i was. i will tell you, i did not understand why that was such a big deal, especially to this white house. i had thought that is what donald trump was good at. [laughter] in part howt it was
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he got to be the president. many people remember the dramatic moment on the apprentice every week when donald trump sat at the conference room table, manned up, look to contestant directly in the eye, and said -- would you kindly submit your letter of resignation? i don't remember that. i thought he should be comfortable doing what he knew best. i thought i would spend a few minutes looking back. was in that position for 7.5 years. as i said on the day that i left and i will say many more times going forward, being a u.s. attorney in the southern
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mattert of new york, no how long i live, it will be the greatest professional honor of my life. i have no complaints. i have no remorse. i got to do that job longer than most people get to do that job or a lot of other great jobs. i think it was the second third longest serving person. further to my thanks to jun and the rest of the office. i left the office in name, but 8:00 which meant celebrated by people in the city, district, and country were done by the most hard-working men and women i have ever seen. along with their partners and the nypd and the fbi. i had the best team in the world. i don't know any institution as good as that one.
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any award i received a received on behalf of them. they were the ones that got the job done. overall, the office did pretty well. i try not to keep track of specific statistics. one statistic i kind of like over the course of 7.5 years, as u.s. attorney, we did bring back the victims through penalties, asset forfeiture. $14 billion. about $50 million a year. if i'm doing the math correctly, given my background, it was 37 -- the return on investment for the taxpayer was 37 times the cost which is a lot better than pretty much any
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hedge fund i'm aware of. the brutality that exists in some of the housing projects and streets and neighborhoods, but other communities in our district including most prominently, there were moments -- we did not focus is much. the office made a difference in people's lives in places like -- it had two or three times the per capita homicide rate in the state. it was a big problem and i remember with a couple of deputies, we gathered with a moms, mothers against gang violence.
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these are professional fbi agents. police department officials and prosecutors. the mothers went around the table and we talked about their experience and how gang violence had affected them. the mom started talking about how she lost her son, shot to death by a rival gang member. it was a compelling story. it grown men in the room became teary-eyed listening to the story. just when he thought, what could be worse than that? how she mom spoke about lost two sons to gang violence. among the work that we did in the office, it is work that made streets safer in schools safer that i am really proud of. the cyber area and the cyber threat is still with us. we created a civil fraud unit that brought important and meaningful litigations against financial institutions and others. we did a lot of civil rights
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work. we spent time trying to keep the homeland safe with terrorism and national security work. we not only prosecuted and sent to prison for life ahmed guilani, but the times square bomber. and the trial of the chelsea bomber. it is just worth noting and i can say this more clearly, it was almost eight years ago that they called me on a november evening to tell me that one of the masterminds of 9/11 would be coming to the southern district of new york to be tried in an article's record. a civilian court. during the time that has gone by since then, it was derailed for reasons above my pay grade. caseve shown in case after
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that the article three courts work and that justice can be done. justice doesn't get hijacked in civilian courts. closure and the public gets an understanding of what went on because of transparency. after all that time in case he has yet i think to have a pretrial conference. i think that record speaks for itself. i will let others debate what was the better way to go with that. [applause] we did a lot of work and financial fraud and corruption. i'm proud of that we did there also. we increased the cost of crime. we spurred reform. and we get everyone? no. did we eradicate corruption? no. is there lots more to do? yes, absolutely. but with the tools we had, the
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legal tools and what the law , i think we did as much or more than anyone else in corruption or financial fraud in the country. we helped make the auto industry safer, we made a money laundering harder. we made compliance programs stronger. we had a hiccup along the way with respect to insider trading cases. we lost in the district court. we lost in the appeals court. and when it counted in the supreme court, based in part on the advocacy of the office, we ruled very quickly that the newman case was basically incorrectly decided. consumers,ught, for it did not get as much attention with the cases that deal with consumer fraud and predatory debt collection. any of you may have gotten the calls that say you owe it debt
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to the irs. if you don't pay immediately, someone will arrest you. that terrorized a lot of ordinary people and we did a lot of those cases. that folks take advantage of the lack of sophistication. we send a lot of those people to prison as well. i want to say one word about our partners in some of those cases because the consumer fraud protection bureau is run by a very able gentleman. you may be aware that there is a very serious litigation that is going on with respect to the separation of powers. on ift going to comment that is well paced -- placed litigation or not. i can comment on something i think is somewhat remarkable where people are not just talking about the structure of
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that agency but denigrating it and whether or not it is appropriate to be as independent as it is. but apart from the mission of that agency, it is about helping average people and consumers. so much so that the first criminal cases they ever referred was with us. they helped ordinary people get justice. they were being ripped off. i am confused when i hear blanket dismissals of public servants in that agency that are trying to do what other people are doing, drain a particular kind of swamp. [applause] public corruption, i believe we did some of that. i don't know the exact count, 19
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or 20 elected officials convicted. republican, upstate, .ownstate, rural, suburban if they were doing it, we were looking at it. we raised awareness of the problem and i would say that we had some distance as a private citizen. the honest government still seems a bit far away. the prosecutors can't solve the problem and i said that over and over again. ethics reform, people think still have centerstage. a problem that is for everyone to solve, not just for people in jun's office. other watchdog agencies, too. when a public corruption commission gets abruptly shut down for nonsensical regions -- reasons, you are allowed to be angry about that and call b.s. when you see it. [applause]
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i abbreviated b.s. because my parents are here. we did a lot on corruption, criminal corruption. punishable by law and imprisonment. that work remains with people like jun and those in his office. insidious corruption all around us. cans not corruption that necessarily be proven beyond a reasonable doubt under criminal statute. but the corruption of standards and institutions is the responsibility of citizens. we spent a lot of time, as i mentioned, doing cases that did not get the kind of attention of the corruption cases that the wall street cases got. the public may not appreciate how much time the hard-working men and women in my office spent working on cases that ordinary people benefited from.
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the fights that they waged every day throughout the city and the state. to achieve justice for everyone. what no one else fights for. often people who have been left behind, left out, or left to their own devices. people left to face discrimination alone, to face violence alone, to face discrimination alone. face con artists and corrupt landlords and other predators. heart of what the office is about, long after i leave, the quintessential american fight to lift up underdogs by bringing justice to their lives. that includes, among other things, our exoneration. who haveg people committed crimes, but there are people that spend hundreds of hours exonerating innocent people, including a woman by the name of kathy watkins and for
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others for a murder they did not commit in the bronx for which they spent 17 years in prison. that was the work done probably by folks in our office that stood for the principle that we try to run just as fast to exonerate the innocent as we do to convict the guilty. it includes people in public housing. you have the right to live in a clean and safe environment. to be free of concerns about lead, mold, chronic problems, and unsafe elevators. all manner of dangerous conditions. that is why when i was there, the division began to see how we can address some of the problems and make sure the 400,000 new yorkers living in public housing are treated in accordance with the law. it treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve. it includes justice for people with disabilities. if you have a disability and you
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live in this city, you have a right to equal access to enjoy every privilege of living in the greatest city on earth. , youave a disability should still be able to dine at any restaurant that you like. that is why we brought dozens of restaurants to the 20th century with respect to the ada. disabilities should the restaurants of new york like everyone else. [applause] it.ou had been caught up in too.ave rights, spents why we have several years attacking the disaster that is rikers island.
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[applause] which i know has been in the news lately. i will comment on that in a second. broken rikers island is borne by the people incarcerated there and buy all of us. it is the sum of the incalculable expense of the cycle of violence, increased recidivism, long-term medical faithent, and the loss of and confidence in our criminal justice system as a whole. litman withudge respect to his commission and his recommendation shutting down rikers island. i understand the mayor has finally endorsed. i think we need to wait and see if the jails can be built, if the communities will accept them . i hope that they do.
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we still have, even the most optimistic estimate of when rikers island can be closed, a decade of living with the current institution. i hope and expect with respect to the consent order that they can make improvements on something that makes even more sense. there is a lot we did. i can't get to all of it but there is a lot still to be done. all they colleagues luck in the world in protecting all of you and advancing the cause of justice in the country. spend a fewme minutes, if you will indulge me, talking about what it meant to me both refreshingly and personally to be the u.s. attorney. what did it mean to me professionally, as a lawyer. i would often get asked the question, what is it you are most proud of as u.s. attorney?
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a particular case, a particular verdict, a particular court decision? that is not the answer as i think about it. what i am most proud of to the extent i was able to do this is to maintain a certain tradition of excellence and independence, a culture of doing was right. no particular case comes close to being as important at maintaining the overall institution itself. you don't judge any place. you judge it by what the standards are that they impose on themselves. .here is a lot of tradition nominated in a handwritten -- on the same piece of paper in which it was nominated,
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the first secretary of state thomas jefferson. there is a lot of pressure in that office like there is in this hall for people to do the right thing. independence is one of those hallmarks that i said. hallmark is the touchstone for everything you think about when you try to accomplish the administration of justice. it is, in many ways, more vital than a gun. justice is not only not seem to be done but it cannot in fact be done. i have always believed that. it's is not something i thought of and talk about because there is a new administration. years ago, in an interview with the new york times, i said, "we are not, nor should we ever be a rubber stamp for the white house." that is how every united states attorney should feel.
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militant independence because that is what the people want. sense.ot a clear it is helping to lead an investigation. and whether or not it had become politicized. and whether or not u.s. attorneys and others would be independent. there are reasons to be concerned all the time. it was almost exactly 10 years ago. the conclusion of which showed, among other things, and you have to be careful about this. that there were people in the justice department back then. they are prestigious positions
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that are being determined based on ideology and party. the united states attorney and the attorney general our political appointments but they are not political positions. the idea that politics and ideology entering into the hiring of the most entry-level lawyers in the justice department was dispiriting. whichwas also a moment at after a number of firings, up to nine, sat in a conference room at a hearing in the senate and said -- looked us straight in the eye. the set all the u.s. attorneys were fired which the president has every right to do. they sat in the hearing room and they said they were fired because they weren't doing their job properly or fired for performance reasons because they were not competent. the fruits of the
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investigation turned out to be a direct lie. sometimes people lie. what the united states meant to me personally and to my parents -- and building on this for a second. i don't talk about this that much. lotng that position meant a given where i came from and how i got here. father that of a came from virtually nothing. born 77 years ago in a colony still ruled in the name of england. with barely pennies in his pocket but hope in his heart with a young wife and an infant son.
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they became the chief federal enforcement officer in the financial capital of the world. even after being fired by a president, is improbably addressing a captive audience in the legendary hall where abraham lincoln once spoke. which i think is not bad. [applause] which i think is not bad for a kid like me. and i mean that with great respect to jersey. and also punjab. reason that i think
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this can be true is that the united states has built a system even if flawed and in need of repair that enshrines the right to equal opportunity and embodies the sacred american ideal that every child, even the poor or old friend -- orphaned or immigrant child could rise higher than their parents could ever imagine. and all that says a lot more about america than it says about me. [applause] but in that vein, recent events have been especially painful and disturbing. i am speaking of the incidents recently where native americans appear to have been targeted in hate crimes. in particular, i'm talking about the shooting of two indian americans in a bar in kansas.
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the shooter asked the two men their immigration status before he opened fire. , another wased killed. that mindless murder along with other incidents have caused an unfortunate wave of alarm, literally throughout india. are many reports that people are afraid to visit the united states even for a holiday. this breaks my heart. people in the country of my , coming to america, it embraced me and my family. it has given us so much. i don't know if you folks read all the story. emerges a hopeful one in
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the tragic story. whoe was a good samaritan happened to be in the right place at the right time. or depending on your perspective, the wrong place at the wrong time. and he waitedbar until he thought the shooter was out of bullets and then intervened even though he didn't know them. he had missed counted, apparently, and he was himself shot in the hand and could have been killed. and in a sign of grace and americans indian around the country wanted to help this hero by helping him by a home and presented him with a check constituting the money they had raised and it was $100,000. and in particular, the words that he spoke when he accepted "i do now he said,
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have a very powerful message. if i can help empower people and spread hope and love, why not?" that is the america we love. and that is the america we don't want to lose. to my phrase that st event.t favoritees i was so excited that i was going to be able to do this. and my my wife, my kids, parents said yes. the organizers of the event called and said that they had a favor to ask. they called and said, would you think it would be ok if your parents at the conclusion of the ceremony led the american
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citizens in the pledge of allegiance? i said yeah, that would be great. she was very nervous so i printed out the pledge of allegiance in 20 fonts type. we got through it ok. that is an exhilarating thing to watch. people sworn in as citizens that day. as i said, i challenge you to where, oner country any given day, in any given city , foreigners from 31 homelands might be happily swearing in of the allegiance to a country they were not born in. and you can't do it because there is no such country. every day,a welcomes populations of people like my mom and my dad. before they cricket
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learned baseball. they felt limits before they felt freedom. and the ceremonies happen all over the country. every day. each one, i think, is a fire of hope and promise. and not just for the new citizens, but for long time americans. try going to one. your heart will swells a big. ifse kinds of ceremonies, they become more rare, i think it would be tragic. evidence like that and what they represent, what they inspire, they make america great. [applause]
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i don't know the future of immigration in this country. i am not a subject matter expert. i am only a beneficiary of america's welcoming arms. america as much as anyone born here and so do my parents. i have spent more than 17 years serving my country because i feel he deep debt for what i have been given. and i know that distinctions are drawn between the future flow of legal versus illegal immigration. i get that. reasonable people can differ about that. to pay careful attention. one needs to watch and listen to or what isng said
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not being said. as we know, intolerant people have always figured out a way to make certain folks feel unwelcome. social issues and justice issues. the beginning of this talk that no serious problem could be solved by prosecution alone. whether public corruption or financial fraud or anything else. ultimately, the solutions lie with the people. constitution frames it, we, the people. it all begins with the people. we choose what is important. we choose what it means to believe. we choose who to trust. we choose who to put in charge. we choose what change we want.
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sometimes we choose by not making a choice. sometimes we choose by omission. andin action, inertia, apathy, are all choices, too. bad choices, but choices nonetheless. about those even though i don't have that job anymore. andtend to stay involved engaged in whatever way i can so that i can no longer issue subpoenas. or direct the actions of armed and trained men. which, by the way, is a total bummer. [laughter] [applause] that was a joke. as a private citizen, i am surrendering neither my voice nor my law degree, nor my citizenship. i hope that those remain potent tools to affect change in america because, god help us.
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god help us if we have to count only on people in public office to make a difference. by the way, i don't have any plans to enter politics just like i have no plans to join the circus. [laughter] [applause] and i mean no offense to the circus. [laughter] that was very obvious where that joke was going. currente sure, and times, those that follow the news, there seems to be an increase in engagement in recent times. that is welcome and good on all sides. seems to be on both ends of the political spectrum. i think fox news is up, too.
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there is massive engagement by the side that wanted this president in and there has been historic and massive engagement by the side that wants this president out. some of that is misleading and anecdotal because involvement by international standards and even by america's unhistorical standards is still really low. notwithstanding the hype and hoopla and handwringing. voter turnout in 2016 was the lowest it's been in this country in 20 years. so i think the problem partly is for all these solutions that we are trying to find that we need ,egular people to help solve people still shrink from involvement. they still leave things to other people. why is that? people spend their lives waiting for the chance to make a --ference in their community for too many, that chance never comes. too many people forego that
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chance when it comes around. they beat the bolt don't think to try because, what difference can they make by themselves? and perhaps worried that their contribution might be too small. -- over time,ce across the ideological spectrum, leaders have cautioned against that way of thinking. the philosophical founder of modern conservatism edmund burke "nobody made a greater mistake that he who did nothing because he could only do a little." dr. martin luther king put it this way. "everybody can be great because anybody conseran serve. " you don't have to have a college degree. you don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics
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to serve. you only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. leadership.needs not just from public officials, but from private citizens, too. privateteaches that citizens even acting alone can make a profound difference. examples from my time as united states attorney. juan gonzalez began shedding light on a massive fraud. you may remember this. it was his reporting that set of on the path, the tune $500 million. i will leave that there. and because of that, we got every penny back for new york city. one employee bravely blew the whistle on a massive kickback scheme.
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it resulted in admissions of misconduct and fines of $450 million. hadaw that his employer pressured pharmacies to promote its drugs while understating serious and life-threatening side effects. it you know what he did? mary quinn was kidnapped by terrorists in yemen in 1998. she saw her companions gunned down and killed. she somehow managed to escape. later, on her own, with no government people with -- trekkedacked to confront one of the kidnapping masterminds. she recorded the conversation on tape. that tape, years later, in a court, it became compelling
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evidence to help us convict him and sent him to prison for life. i could go on and on. the point is this. there may be a lot of goliaths out there. but there are davids, too. i am inspired not just by the daily work of the public servants, but also by the ordinary citizens that aided the mission of justice often. through great risk to themselves, that is the holy power of individual acts of courage and persistence. , now think what happens when there is power put together by groups of individuals. my favorite author kurt vonnegut whye, "there is no reason good cannot triumph as often as evil. the triumph of anything is a matter of organization. if there are such things as
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angels, i hope they are organized along the lines of the mafia." [laughter] he wrote that a long time ago. he meant the mafia of the 70's and 80's. get it? all right. active citizenship matters. active citizenship is desperately needed now more than ever. individually and collectively. the fact of the matter is, the country needs your leadership. you know what? 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. it is not fake news. but i would submit that you don't drain the swamp with a slogan.
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you don't replace it with one set of partisans. you don't replace muck with muck. to drain a swamp, you need the army corps of engineers. experts schooled in service and serious purpose. anythingthing, say who know aportunists lot about how to bully and bluster, but not so much about truth, justice, and fairness. [applause] draining a swamp takes genuine commitment to justice and fairness. not just attention to what benefits one group over another
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or divides one group against another. in a just and fair society, the prosecutor should care about the prisoner. the healthy should care about the sick. the rich should care about the poor, and the mighty should care about the week. why? because there but for the grace of god go i. and because that is what helps make america great. so continue to care about the important issues. i will, too. and to help advance them as a private citizen. i will make one final point. my prior job was about being strictly nonpartisan and required independence. not only from politics but of thought. it required facts and evidence as a prerequisite to any consequential action. all, there is no
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democratic or republican way to try and armed robbery case. i used to joke that there were three political parties in america. democrat, republican, and federal prosecutor. for almost eight years, i was a proud member of that third party. and when i think about public iscourse and public policy, take lessons from the work of my office and its culture. i offer this, for what it's worth, as a relates to the state of debate and discourse in america at this moment. i tell young lawyers all the time, always remember that your comments in a case are not your mortal enemies. there your adversaries in an admirable system that inspires to treat every participant with dignity and respect. and remember to not just be respectful but also honorable and honest. the best and most effective lawyers i have ever known, the ones who beat us more often than anyone else are uniformly
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aboveboard, not underhanded. they are lawyers, not tricksters. they are men and women always true to their word. occurs to me that we might remember that in public debates, too. about my past in washington when you think about what partisanship means and if we understand each other in any way at all. i started working on the senate judiciary committee. i was on my way to lunch with a fellow staffer looks at me and says, i heard a nasty rumor about you. i said, what's that? she said, i heard a rumor that you are friends with viet dinh. he was a conservative from
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orange county. he was a right-hand person in the justice department to john ashcroft, and conservative in every way, shape or form. i don't agree with a lot of what he thinks, he doesn't agree with what a lot of what i think. so i get asked the question, i hear a rumor that you are friends with him. i said, that is not correct. i am best friends with viet di nh. i was best man at his wedding, and i have known them for a lot of years. this person physically recoiled from me on the way to lunch. and i tell that story only because, what are we coming to when you are not allowed to be friends with someone who thinks something different from you? i think a lot of problems you have in the country with this divisiveness is we don't associate with people we don't agree with. i know some of the people you don't agree with our -- are disagreeable, but we become very closed to other kinds of
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thought. let me just say this. in this time of antagonism and polarization, this time of headstrong faith that your side is always right and the other side is always wrong, the search for truth and justice in the courtroom offers some model. here's why i say that. in the courtroom, almost uniquely, the quest for truth depends on evidence and facts. it relies on examination and cross-examination. it abhors assumption and insinuation. it relies on the right of both sides to present arguments and to challenge arguments. it lets both sides do so without fear of being shouted down or shut down so long as the presentations are fairly made with respect and decorum. and so long as they do not make undue appeals to prejudice, fear --a motion -- the motion
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emotion. at every stage of the trial, members of the jury are admonished repeatedly to do what? to keep an open mind. every day the judge reminds the jury to keep an open mind, and in criminal cases, to remember the presumption of innocence until all sides have been heard, all facts have been offered, all fair arguments have been made. that is the best way our law has determined to discover truth and achieve justice. and i think there is something strikingly special in that. we should all wonder whether it provides some guidance for the way to search for truth and justice in our society as well. because if our society operated that way, if our democracy operated that way, with respectful and open-minded debate, we can wonder whether we would have better laws and policies instead of just bad blood. i think that is worth the thought.
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perhaps the greatest u.s. attorney ever to serve in the southern district was a gentleman by the name of henry stimson. many decades after he served in the southern district, more than a century ago, after also having served as secretary of state and secretary of war, stimson described the challenge for people who might wish to make a difference in the world. he said this. "let them have hope and virtue, and let them believe in mankind and its future, for there is good as well as evil. and the man who tries to work for the good, believing in its eventual victory, while he may suffer setback and even disaster, will never know defeat. the only deadly sin i know is
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cynicism." that was henry stimson. ig, rememberus unr the forgotten, lift the underdog, drain the swamp. let us do all of those things, but let's actually do it, not just talk about it. and let's do it with goodwill and in good faith. let's do it as idealists, not cynics. let's do it with facts, not falsehoods. let's do it in the spirit of hope and harmony, with love, not hate. thanks very much. [applause]
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preet: thanks very much. thank you. i thought i was done, but apparently i am going to answer some questions from the president. laura: are we on? preet: do you want to use this? laura: there we go. great. in the true spirit of the cooper union, we invited our community to questions. i have a few of the questions you have selected to address this evening. love the first one. is there any chance of hypocrisy becoming illegal? [laughter]
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preet: did people here that question? is there any chance of hypocrisy becoming illegal? i don't think we have the jail space for that. [laughter] preet: people talk about mass incarceration. i think we would have a lot of problems. i think i understand the spirit of the question. i think people get very frustrated when presumably a person is talking about hypocrisy on the part of public officials, elected leaders. that is not the business of the criminal law, probably not even the business of civil law. that is the business of citizenship and people holding other folks who are responsible for them to take oath of office accountable. for what they should be accountable for. no one is perfect, but we should have less of it, and people tould be holding folks' feet the fire on it. laura: how has the supreme court's opinion in the mcdonald
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prosecutors'tive ability to bring cases? preet: it certainly affected the ability to bring the case against mr. mcdonnell. the former governor of virginia. the court decided to narrow the definition of what to constitute the quo innate quid pro quo, what the official action might be. they have decreed the law of the land. i think they are reasonable people and reasonable citizens, including those at the justice department who argued to the contrary that by this decision, , these are the words of other people, that the supreme court was being naive about how power is actually exercised. and because of the narrowing caused by this decision, i think some reasonable people are right to worry that there is some kind of bad conduct that the average citizen would like to have criminalized that people are going to get away with. in the real world, where quid
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pro quos happen without the exchange of bags of money and without the explicit ways people would like him -- in them to happen if you're going to prove , it in a court of law, it ties the hands of some prosecutors. there are some cases the average person would like to see prosecuted, it will be able to be. laura: one of the things i have come to learn very quickly about the cooper union community is that that the super union community is that people cut right to the chase. what you think you were fired? [laughter] beats the hell out of me. after the election, one presumes there were be a changing of the guard, whether it is attorneys or ambassadors or everything else. i of course had this meeting with some fanfare at trump tower in which the president-elect
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asked me to stay on for another term. he was very explicit about it. he asked me to tell the world and of the press corps downstairs that he wanted me to stay on for another term. and then there was this decision to let everyone go, which i don't begrudge anyone, but i've been around the block a few times and i have seen some things that happened before. part of the reason i said i wasn't going to resign, want to -- in the record to reflect for all time that there was a deliberate decision, not just a bureaucratic nonspecific sweeping away of what had been there in the past, but a specific decision to change one's mind and deliberately fire me. given what my office's jurisdiction is and where my office is situated, i'm not making any accusation about anyone, but i have lived long enough to know that you want the record to be clear.
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laura: on that note your office , is clearly prosecuting many cases that people care very much about and that are critical. do you believe that your departure from the u.s. attorney's office will in any way impede any particular cases you are investigating? preet: no, and for the reason i said at the outset. because he and the other professional career men and women and office care about doing the right thing for the right reasons in the right way and believe and independence in -- in independence and justice. i know that june and all the other people i know in the office, if they get pushed around, they know how to handle it. whether it is from washington or anywhere else. i don't know who the eventual replacement will be. i presume it will be someone who comes from the same place in ethics of not letting anyone push you around and being anyone, and going after no matter how much money they have or who they are or how much
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power they may have. -- so myectation expectation that is a mean that , some people think otherwise, that the removal of a particular person will make a difference -- but i think that is misguided. i have every expectation that the case will proceed. laura: the new administration has not yet found a new district attorney for the southern district. what advice do you have for your successor? preet: do not make the mistakes i made, and i will discuss this privately with the next person. when i became a nominee, i had breakfast or lunch or dinner or meetings with everyone i could find who was still alive who had been in my position. very awkward to meet with people who had died. [laughter] preet: so i stuck with those folks. they all said the same thing, some version of what i said a
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second ago. i served under mary jo white, who was fiercely independent. she, at the end of her tenure opened up an investigation against the president, president clinton, who had appointed her. that his independence. and to a person, everyone said make sure you don't lose that , tradition. that is the advice we give june. although he does not need it. be true to what you think is right. follow your conscience. don't go beyond the law, but make sure you serve the people of your district, and don't let anybody intimidate you or make you scared. don't care about public will in one direction or the other to bring a case or don't bring a case, and follow what your guiding principles are. that is it. if you do that and get out of way of your prosecutors and let them do their job because they , are invariably and unerringly brilliant and committed and loyal to the will of law. if you do all those things, it will work out pretty well.


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