The former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York skillfully explains how he approached his job, offering a mixture of guiding principles and compelling anecdotes.
Although appointed by Barack Obama in 2009 and fired in 2017 by Donald Trump, Bharara refrains from either praising Obama or settling scores with Trump. The author organizes his book according to the way a criminal case normally unfolds: “Inquiry,” about investigating an alleged crime; “Accusation,” about whether to actually charge a defendant with breaking a law; “Judgment,” about the court proceedings; and “Punishment,” about the steps taken when a defendant is found guilty. Unlike many lawyers who write books, Bharara refreshingly avoids jargon, striking a conversational tone and regularly employing analogies and metaphors that make his points easily understandable. For example, while explaining that stockbrokers complete countless legal transactions while also cheating the system, Bharara writes that just because a motorist usually observes the posted speed limit, that behavior does not constitute evidence that the driver never exceeds the speed limit. Among the most compelling anecdotes, Bharara explains the successful 2010 prosecution of Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square Bomber, and offers clear reasons, however controversial, why his office never prosecuted high-ranking Wall Street and banking executives for the consequences of the 2008 financial meltdown that harmed millions of Americans. Throughout the book, the author admits to uncertainties about whether or not to prosecute apparent wrongdoing in a variety of cases, and he candidly expresses regrets about some of his decisions. As he astutely notes, sometimes there are no “correct” answers—e.g., in the social media era, how should a prosecutor deal with a Facebook post that a young man plans to enter a school with a rifle, before violence occurs? Rarely does Bharara offer glimpses into his private life, but he does share a few instances of the calumny he has faced due to his Indian heritage.
An engaging tour from beginning to end.