Stay Tuned Transcript 2/20: Pardonpalooza & #MeToo (with Ronan Farrow)

Stay Tuned Transcript 2/20: Pardonpalooza & #MeToo (with Ronan Farrow)

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Preet Bharara:

From CAFE, welcome to Stay Tuned. I’m Preet Bharara.

Ronan Farrow:

Harvey Weinstein is one person, the reason the story was so significant is partly because so many of the tactics he used to evade accountability were emblematic of a larger set of systems which are alive and well today and require more tough reporting.

Preet Bharara:

That’s Ronan Farrow. He’s the author of Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators. It’s an account of his game changing investigation into film producer Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual assault, and the difficulties Farrow faced trying to get the initial story published. According to the book, NBC News killed the Weinstein story, so Farrow took the expose to the New Yorker, where he has since published a number of articles implicating powerful men in sexual misconduct and exposing the systems that kept them from justice for so long.

Preet Bharara:

Farrow’s Weinstein reporting earned him the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for public service, which he shared with reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey of the New York Times. Farrow also adapted the book into a riveting nine episode podcast, the Catch and Kill podcast in collaboration with Pineapple Street Studios. We’ll get into all of that, plus his thoughts on the Harvey Weinstein trial, the role of the National Enquirer in protecting powerful men and the complicated responsibilities lawyers face in the Me Too movement.

Preet Bharara:

That’s coming up. Stay tuned. Hey, Stay Tuned listeners. We’ve got a nice surprise for you today. Guess who’s helping me answer your questions at the top of the show. None other than my CAFE insider co host Anne Milgram. On Tuesday, the White House announced a number of pardons and sentencing commutations. So we’re going to do what we do each week on the inside or pod and try to make sense of it all. With that, hi Anne.

Anne Milgram:

Hi. How are you doing?

Preet Bharara:

I guess we could call this pardon palooza. So just when you think you can rest one afternoon, there’s pardon after pardon. The three most I guess conspicuous and famous pardons, Bernard Kerik, the former police commissioner in New York City who had been nominated to be the head of DHS, the Department of Homeland Security, that went south. That was prosecuted by my office.

Preet Bharara:

He pled guilty and was sentenced while I was the US Attorney, although my predecessor Mike Garcia, is the one who oversaw the charging against him. Michael Milken, one of the most famous insider trading cases of all time from 1990 and then, Mr. Rod Blagojevich, the colorful former Governor of Illinois, Democrat, who was prosecuted by my friend and former colleague Patrick Fitzgerald whom the president referred to as Fitzpatrick on TV yesterday, bunch of pardons.

Preet Bharara:

Let me read one of the questions from listeners and we can respond. This is from Ian M. Hill, who asks, “What’s the justification for any president to commute sentences or apply a complete pardon? Even if he, she were a former lawyer? How could they know better than the original judge especially if the defendant pleaded guilty? #askpreet.” What do you make of all this Anne?

Anne Milgram:

Yeah, I mean, it’s a great question and it’s worth talking about. Clemencies and pardons just big picture for a minute, which is that it’s a presidential power. It’s a constitutional power in article two of the Constitution. The idea was always that there be this sort of avenue for mercy or fairness, that if the president felt that it was inappropriate, that somehow the sentence was too long or if someone had, for example, gone to prison, served their time, come out, done good deeds, and really taking responsibility to sort of wash it away, to let them get on with their life.

Anne Milgram:

It’s not used a ton. Obama used it frequently, when it related to drug incarceration, people who had been given long sentences for drug crimes and for a variety of other sort of nonviolent offenses. What is really unique and what I want to just sort of stop on with Trump is not that the president doesn’t have the power to do this, he absolutely does. It’s the way he’s using it that I think is so deeply troubling.

Anne Milgram:

These are all folks who are either political corruption or I consider both Rod I can never say his last name. Rod Blagojevich and Bernie Kerik, they’re both political corruption cases in my view. Milken, of course, is famous for junk bonds and really being at the height of corporate greed. They’re all individuals who are people who had an enormous amount of opportunity. They’re white collar criminals. To me, it is stunning that the president really chooses to spend his clemency power and his commutation power on these folks.

Anne Milgram:

What does it say to you Preet? What I was stunned by was not that the President would want to pardon or commute these people, but that he’s so brazen, and basically saying, I’m just going to do the white collar defendants, I’m not going to do-

Preet Bharara:

Well, he does from time to time the others but he understands the power of the press release. He understands the power of news. So he knows when he pardons people who are involved in sensational cases that were a big deal, that that is what’s going to grab attention and drive the narrative. So he knows exactly what he’s doing. Even if there’s some people from time to time, who don’t fall into this narrow category that you’re talking about. Going back to the person’s question, what’s the justification?

Preet Bharara:

He doesn’t need to have one because constitution says you have this power in this right, but like with anything else, if you want to have a system that’s fair and perceived as fair, the system of protocols develops over time. Sometime after the constitution was drafted in more recent history, there was set up in the Department of Justice, the Office of the Pardon Attorney.

Preet Bharara:

Even though the president has absolute authority to do whatever the hell he wants, with respect to pardons and commutations, there was a process that was set up so it would look like it was fair, and so that the most deserving commutation and pardon applications would make their way through the process and a recommendation would be made by the partner attorney to the White House. Generally speaking, that was in consultation with the prior prosecutors, the judge, the defense lawyer, taking into account how the law may have changed and how maybe perceptions in society have changed about the heinousness of the crime, and also a whole list of criteria.

Preet Bharara:

Again, not mandatory, but a whole list of criteria, including level of remorse of the person who committed the crime, whether the fact of the conviction has held that person back in material ways, what kind of an exemplary life they’ve lived since that time, so that it’s not only people who are famous, it’s not only people who have famous lawyers, not only people who know Kim Kardashian, but there’s a system through which in some fair and appropriate and balanced and legitimate way that’s done with integrity, a president can make good and wise choices as to how to exercise this completely unfettered power of his, and the fact that he bypasses all of that is a problem.

Anne Milgram:

Yeah, I think that’s an excellent point, which is that usually there is a process that’s followed. Again, the president doesn’t have to, but traditionally, presidents have followed them and with this, the reporting was that the President basically said he followed “recommendations,” in making his decisions, but it’s not clear that he relied on what would be the normal Justice Department vetting process.

Anne Milgram:

It is a really important thing for people to believe that there’s a fair and transparent process for when these things take place. I’ll tell you one other thing that’s a little unusual is that we’ve seen in the past, I mean, Obama set up this whole process where people had to apply and there were certain conditions that they had to meet, and the pardon attorneys had to go through every He was in federal prison and the applications to see who was eligible.

Anne Milgram:

This is the exact opposite of that and this type of pardon is much more akin to what we’ve seen presidents do on their way out of office and to see like, you remember President Clinton and Marc Rich, which was sort of 11th hour as he was walking out the door-

Preet Bharara:

We should just mention-

Anne Milgram:

It was a terrible pardon.

Preet Bharara:

Yeah. So it’s not just that this president, I think abuses the power although he has the power. I worked in the US Attorney’s Office [inaudible 00:07:27] prosecutor at the time, and I’ve said this before, Mary Jo White opened up an investigation of President Clinton, the man who appointed her because of how stinky the pardon of Marc Rich which was.

Anne Milgram:

Yes, I think there have long been issues about how the president uses power. I would also say this is sort of fascinating. In the Bernie Kerik pardon and remember, he was convicted of tax fraud lying to the government. Trump said that he’d heard from more than a dozen people who wanted Mr. Kerik to be pardoned, including Rudy Giuliani, Geraldo Rivera, Eddie Gallagher, the former Navy SEAL accused of war crimes. It’s just like this is how the world is working.

Anne Milgram:

I’ve seen there are people who were incarcerated for life sentences for three strikes, you’re out on things like writing bad checks. There are people in the war on drugs who are incarcerated for decades for largely nonviolent offenses. Of course, there’s a fair and I think, robust debate right now about what the right length of sentences in some crimes, but this really is not about that. This is really about, is the president exercising his power in favor of friends, and again, they’re all people, in my view, who largely are seen to violated the public trust in some way.

Preet Bharara:

Yeah. So if you look at, there’s a very astute question or observation made by another listener, Mark Dukes, who says, “Did you notice that all the president’s pardons and commutations today were for felons who had violated the public trust or outright corrupt. Birds of a feather.” There some people are saying, well, of course, the president wants to pardon people who have engaged in conduct that he himself has been accused of engaging in, and he doesn’t want to go to prison for. So somebody I think said on Twitter, it’s kind of like anticipatory projection. It’s kind of a little bit what it is.

Anne Milgram:

Yes, definitely. Then also definitely, you and I have talked about this before in the CAFE Insider, but it sets up the Stone pardon as well. I think, there’s no question that the president is looking, in my view, at least to pardon stone also or to complete his sentence. So this is sort of setting up the path forward on that potentially, as well.

Preet Bharara:

Yeah, I agree with all that and just again, as with respect to Roger Stone, and when you have the case of Blagojevich, there have been people, including Democrats who have said, you know what, 14 years was maybe too long. In the Kerik case, by the way, whose sentencing I was US Attorney for, the judge went above the guidelines and gave a sentence to Bernie Kerik of four years that was beyond what the government sought, and there are fair legitimate arguments in good faith arguments that senses are too long, but when you have a person exercising his power, whether it’s reaching into the Justice Department or Roger Stone or using the pardon power in a particular way, I think it prompts a lot of cynicism, and that’s not a good thing.

Anne Milgram:

Yeah, I agree.

Preet Bharara:

All right.

Anne Milgram:

Thanks Preet. Great to chat with you.

Preet Bharara:

Thanks for being on Stay Tuned.

Anne Milgram:

Thanks for having me. Talk soon.

Preet Bharara:

Hey folks, so that conversation just heard between me and Anne is the kind of thing we do every week on the CAFE Insider podcast. We break down the news try to explain what’s going on make sense of what’s happening. It’s confusing to a lot of people and we go deep and we go for a long time, usually up to an hour. Right now you can subscribe for free for two weeks by going to café.com/insider. Try it out for free for two weeks at café.com/insider. Stay tuned. There’s more coming up right after this.

Preet Bharara:

My guest this week is Ronan Farrow. Farrow has been at the journalistic forefront of the Me Too movement publishing explosive allegations in New Yorker, implicating film producer Harvey Weinstein, former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and former CBS president Les Moonves. His book, Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, recounts the obstacles he faced and publishing sexual assault allegations against Weinstein.

Preet Bharara:

This isn’t Farrow’s first time on the show. A prodigious scholar of foreign policy and the law, he joined us to talk about the future of American diplomacy in April 2018. Today, he joins me to talk about the complicated roles that lawyers have played in the Me Too movement, the shady world of intelligence firms, and how NBC News tried to kill his Weinstein reporting. We also talk to Donald Trump’s relationship to the National Enquirer, SDNY’s role in prosecuting Me Too related cases and the importance of whistleblowers in speaking truth to power. That’s coming up. Stay tuned.

Preet Bharara:

Ronan Farrow, thanks again for being on the show. One more time.

Ronan Farrow:

Thank you for having me back.

Preet Bharara:

It’s good to have you back. It’s been a while.

Ronan Farrow:

I basically browbeat you until you let me back.

Preet Bharara:

That is not true.

Ronan Farrow:

Just coming up to you at parties and saying, why won’t you let me back?

Preet Bharara:

I don’t go to parties.

Ronan Farrow:

Sure. I’ll let that untruth stand. To preserve your street cred.

Preet Bharara:

It’s one of the only untruths you let stand.

Ronan Farrow:

That’s true.

Preet Bharara:

So let’s talk about, let me congratulate you on your book, which is not that new at the moment. Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators.

Ronan Farrow:

Thank you.

Preet Bharara:

Your welcome. Podcast by the same name. Can we do one thing before we get into all these issues that are continuing to vex the country and the Harvey Weinstein trial that has gone into deliberations even as we speak. It’s Tuesday, I think, February 18th.

Ronan Farrow:

You may have a problem of a verdict coming down between us recording this-

Preet Bharara:

We’re going to record two versions of this. We’re going to record one, assuming well, three, actually. Conviction, acquittal, hung jury. So get prepared to be here for three hours. Last time you were here, just one unfinished bit of business. We talked about your book, the War on Peace and one of the things you said throughout that interview was the importance of the diplomats we have in the State Department and the morale of the folks in the State Department, the unsung heroes who do all this amazing work and help to keep us safe and help to keep our alliances strong and you worried about them a little bit.

Preet Bharara:

That was almost two years ago, April 2018. Then we also talked a bit about a particular person who’s become a lot more well known since then, a gentleman by the name of Mike Pompeo, who was looking like he was going to become the Secretary of State. You said, back on April 26, 2018, on this podcast, “I would hope that Mike Pompeo, as a compassionate person, would reflect on the importance of this workforce,” meaning the diplomats and the State Department, “And the extent to which it needs defending and restoring right now.” How did that work out?

Ronan Farrow:

Well, I should say in full disclosure, I’ve been holding off on the paperback of War on Peace, because as you may recall, I interviewed every living Secretary of State and I think it merits an updated version with some discussion of Pompeo. So I’m going to keep my powder a little bit dry for that. As you may have heard, from people in that workforce, the feelings in that building continue to be complicated and certainly there are still a lot of hopes riding on Pompeo.

Ronan Farrow:

The bar was set very low in terms of the professionalism of the management in that building. He is a more accomplished and experienced politician and navigator of DC than Rex Tillerson was. There’s a lot of reason for that optimism and it’s something I’m going to be writing and thinking about whether he made good on those hopes.

Preet Bharara:

As you watched the impeachment inquiry and the trial, I don’t want to get too into the weeds depending on what you’re going to write about, and you saw diplomat after diplomat coming forward and testifying and not being defended by Michael Pompeo. What did you think of in your work there?

Ronan Farrow:

Well, I think that the recent news cycle has somewhat vindicated the premise of the book, which was diplomats are too infrequently being led into the room where decisions are made. They are being pink slipped and shown the door. We don’t have enough manpower in a diplomatic capacity on the ground in so many places and you really see the consequences of that writ large in the impeachment proceedings.

Ronan Farrow:

You see the way a Marie Yovanovitch gets treated, the way in which when you do professionalize diplomacy, and don’t let diplomats make the decisions, and keep an eye on the conversations, you wind up with all of this uncertainty of what was promised on a call, what deals were made. If these conversations were handled in the context of a more traditional diplomatic strategy, you wouldn’t have room for a lot of that. You wouldn’t have room for one on one secretive conversations becoming compromised, that can blow up our political reality.

Ronan Farrow:

You see that in impeachment. You see it in Jared Kushner having one-on-one conversations with the Chinese that diplomats are not allowed to monitor. It’s a dangerous business and it’s a good reminder that the de-professionalizing and strip mining of diplomacy doesn’t just hurt us abroad, it creates situations that can be used against us in a domestic political context too.

Preet Bharara:

So let’s get to Catch and Kill. When you came on the show last, I think you had just won the Pulitzer Prize for reporting on these issues. So some people could have taken the Pulitzer Prizes, and said I’ll move on to something else, because you already got that huge distinction in writing. Why did you decide you needed to write this book?

Ronan Farrow:

Well, I did move on to something else. Strikingly, like the wonderful reporters at the Times, who also did great work on the Weinstein story went straight into their book, and I felt a fair amount of anxiety about the fact that I instead took two years to report out other stories that were largely unrelated. From the beginning, one of those stories was a lot of reporting on the ways in which these kinds of investigations get killed under duress from powerful people.

Ronan Farrow:

It was increasingly clear as I got to the finish line on the Weinstein story that that was a separate body of investigative reporting that needed to be done in its own right. So that catapulted me into the book and I kind of did a bit of both. The reporting for the book was coming together as I proceeded to break the Schneiderman story with Jane Mayer, the CBS story with all the work that I did about Les Moonves and that company. The MIT Epstein fundraising relationship story and on and on. The Trump hush payments stories were, I think, largely after I last talked to you.

Preet Bharara:

So describe what Catch and Kill is for the few remaining people who don’t understand the concept.

Ronan Farrow:

So Catch and Kill is a term from the tabloid journalism world and it refers in a literal sense to when a tabloid outlet acquires the rights to a story, buys up a story, and then has whoever is selling the story sign away their right to ever talk about it anywhere else and then instead of publishing it, they bury it. They put it in a vault at the National Enquirer never to see the light of day again.

Preet Bharara:

Why? Why do you do that?

Ronan Farrow:

Usual in the kinds of cases we’re talking about, to appease a powerful friend of that outlet and this was something the Enquirer did a lot of. It was a blackmail outfit, in the words of a lot of sources I talked to where they would buy up the rights to something unflattering about someone and then hold it over them basically, to try to get an exclusive with them, lots of examples of this.

Preet Bharara:

So sometimes it was to hold it over their head, but sometimes it was to just appease them or do a favor to them.

Ronan Farrow:

Right. It was a stick side of the relationship and a carrot side of the relationship. So you have situations-

Preet Bharara:

The perfect for kind of relationship.

Ronan Farrow:

As with any healthy relationship-

Preet Bharara:

You want to have the carrot end.

Ronan Farrow:

It didn’t make the final cut of the podcast. So there’s the book, Catch and Kill and then there’s the podcast Catch and Kill and you can do them in either order. They’re independent pieces of storytelling. Probably my favorite like canon order is the book in which you get this whole arc of a sort of mystery thriller plot and then the podcast where you get to spend an hour a piece with major characters in it, learning their life stories and side plots and so forth.

Ronan Farrow:

One of the things that very nearly made the cut of the podcast and in the end didn’t because the audio was quite rough quality for general listeners was archival tape of David Pecker, the CEO of American media, which owned for many years the National Enquirer. He was the National Enquirer personified through a lot of these deals, telling the story to Jeffrey Toobin, New Yorker writer of how this kind of practice worked in a very typical case of Tiger Woods.

Ronan Farrow:

This is easy to talk about because most of this stuff has already come out publicly. So this is not particularly new or inflammatory. Although it is an absurd story in terms of the specific color involved. They, through their network of moles and people who call in to try to sell a story for a buck, got a tip from the mother of a woman who was having an extramarital fling with Tiger Woods and the woman was a-

Preet Bharara:

This is back before all this became known?

Ronan Farrow:

Yes, that’s right. The woman was a waitress at diner that Tiger frequented, and the mother narked and called the Enquirer and sold this tip. The Enquirer proceeded to put guys in the bushes, basically, where Tiger and this young woman would have parking lot rendezvous of various kinds. There was actually a case where they caught them in the act, and they tried to adjourn the act and run away.

Preet Bharara:

Did you say adjourn the act?

Ronan Farrow:

Yeah.

Preet Bharara:

So your legal degree sometimes comes back to haunt you.

Ronan Farrow:

Just the words. You can’t bring me anywhere Preet. They were able to get the story anyway because the young woman had thrown out a used tampon because there was some urgency to the act apparently and they just needed to do it right then and there. So the Enquirer reporters, this is the kind of muckraking you’re talking about, collected this used tampon and DNA tested it and were able to get the story. Then that’s sort of the absurdity of tabloid journalism, general journalism with air quotes but the interesting And significant part is how the pattern of buying and burying stories work and how it can be held over people.

Ronan Farrow:

Because in that case, what they did was they went to Tiger’s lawyer and said, that he as he narrates it in this tape, he’s like, we never explicitly cut a deal. It was all sort of just suggested we have this. Would you like to finally say yes to doing a cover story for one of our sports magazines we have in this publishing empire. Tiger has been saying no, for several years, will he say yes, now that he knows that if he doesn’t, maybe this story will include a lot more unflattering details.

Preet Bharara:

Is that done expressively? You do this, otherwise, we’re going to do that?

Ronan Farrow:

I mean, I would take David Pecker’s narration of this with a grain of salt. As he says it, it’s slightly sort of implicit, and they don’t kill the story for, it’s a mild case because they don’t kill it completely. They just omit certain pertinent details like the tampon. So what happens is Tiger is suddenly on this cover of an AMI publication this parent company of the National Enquirer and the story that comes out is much softened around the margins. So that’s like an innocuous typical version of how these deals can work.

Preet Bharara:

In your travels with respect to these incidents of Catch and Kill, I don’t mean to ask to put your lawyer hat back on again, but maybe I will. Do any of these get close enough to bonafide unlawful extortion?

Ronan Farrow:

Yeah, I mean, honestly, my analysis of it is, it is absolutely coercive, and more significantly, as I approach the problem, we just talked about an innocuous case in terms of the stakes for the nation. But when you start to get to political figures, who are attempting to bury stories, say to influence the outcome of an election, you end up with multiple legal problems, one of which prosecutors at your old [haunt 00:22:53] decided was indeed illegal and they sent a Trump associate to jail in part for that final of election law.

Preet Bharara:

I remember that.

Ronan Farrow:

Yep. So that was to do with the catching and killing of stories about Donald Trump by the National Enquirer during the election.

Preet Bharara:

With respect to Trump overall, how many stories would you say, AMI/the National Enquirer has killed for the benefit of Donald Trump?

Ronan Farrow:

So right in the Trump case, you have sort of the positive side of how this relationship [inaudible 00:23:20] positive in the sense that instead of explicitly holding things over Donald Trump, although we don’t know the inside of that relationship, and don’t know how long that happened, or how much that was part of the dynamic, it seems like a lot of what they were doing was working with Donald Trump to actively find dirt and then hide it from the public.

Ronan Farrow:

So we don’t know exactly how many stories were killed, as opposed to just softened. How many stories might never have even been recorded in writing, because they were so sensitive, but I can tell you that in the course of reporting for this book, I ultimately did see a master list that was labeled, due to source protection issues I have to paraphrase, but something to the effect of Donald Trump killed and it’s a list of about 60 stories-

Preet Bharara:

60 stories. Over what period of time?

Ronan Farrow:

This is historical. So this goes back several decades and extends up into the 2000s.

Preet Bharara:

What does AMI get for this?

Ronan Farrow:

So that’s always the question and it’s one that I’ve asked a lot of employees of AMI, it’s one that I asked a lot of employees of AMI in the book, on the podcast. Certainly, David Pecker is someone who, if you look at his biography, and Dylan Howard, his second lieutenant, they’re both people who are sort of obsessed with celebrity and delight in the destruction of celebrity and seeing the fall of someone that they can smear and also delight in proximity to celebrity.

Ronan Farrow:

So they love this kind of an alliance and so many AMI employees who work closely with Pecker talked about his delight at being on Sylvester Stallone’s plane, being able to rub elbows with Charlie Sheen when they were for a time holding over him the fact that they knew his HIV diagnosis, the alliance that Dylan Howard had with Paris Hilton. They’re all these historical cases and Trump is one where David Pecker would brag a lot about, I can be on his plane, I can hang out with him.

Preet Bharara:

So they’re some people they decided to just destroy, because that’s one of the things that they did, but then others that they decided to prop up and that’s just based on the peccadilloes and the whims of David Pecker?

Ronan Farrow:

Well, it seems like it’s also based on whether they went along with it. I think that these can become relationships where there’s an attempt to hold something over someone and they play ball and say, okay, I’ll cut a deal. Then it becomes an ongoing deal and a relationship that they have or there are cases where people don’t play ball and then they get smeared. The Jeff Bezos case is a great example,

Preet Bharara:

In a separate context, as you write about at length in the book, and I want to get into it a little bit, there was a point in time when you used to work for NBC, and some of this future award winning reporting that you did groundbreaking discovery that you engaged in you thought you were going to put on the air and NBC And that didn’t happen.

Ronan Farrow:

Your legal past is also coming back to haunt you.

Preet Bharara:

What did I say?

Ronan Farrow:

Thank you for calling it groundbreaking discovery.

Preet Bharara:

It’s more interesting than actual legal discovery. I’ll change the phrase.

Ronan Farrow:

Depending on the case. Sure.

Preet Bharara:

Groundbreaking reporting by Ronan Farrow. So there was no catch here but there was a kill on the part of NBC. You’re pretty frank about how that went down.

Ronan Farrow:

So in the context of the book, the term Catch and Kill becomes relevant and was very clearly the correct title both because the trail of clues ultimately leads to Harvey Weinstein’s relationship with the National Enquirer, where he was one of these people who was using them to dig up dirt on his opponents to kill stories. Basically, by the end of when the Weinstein story was breaking Dylan Howard the second in command at the National Enquirer at the time was moved into Harvey Weinstein’s offices, in the words of many sources around this.

Ronan Farrow:

Spending a lot of time with him, going through files of dirt trying to save Harvey Weinstein and intimidate or smear his victims. Dylan Howard denies this et cetera, et cetera. That’s all reflected in the book. Then the trail of clues leads onward from Weinstein in the National Enquirer to Trump in the National Enquirer, which then led me to a number of significant stories about what was happening during the election.

Ronan Farrow:

So that’s part of the plot of the book, in a literal sense, Catch and Kill. There’s also a figurative meaning, which you’re getting at here, which is we’ve talked in the weeds about the actual tabloid practice, but it is emblematic of a larger problem, which I really think is one of the big threats to our democracy and our basic freedoms, which is restraints placed upon the free flow of information by powerful people, whether it’s literally using a tabloid to buy up stories and suppress them before voters can see them in an election.

Ronan Farrow:

In this case, as what prosecutors found was an undeclared campaign contribution and a violation of campaign finance law. Or it can be the more attenuated thing that happens all the time, which is a powerful person leans on an outlet to get a story killed and in the case where I was encountering, it was very clear it was happening to me and my producer from a very early point. We may have even talked about this a little when I was last on the podcast because it was already filtering into the news cycle.

Preet Bharara:

We did but then impart a little bit, you didn’t want to step on what you were going to say about how you were stymied, because that was what you were starting to write about in the book.

Ronan Farrow:

Which was not just a cynical attempt to withhold stuff for the book, it was very clear to me, once I kind of looked at this landscape in which this is a reality, most of us don’t think about day to day that there are important stories, maybe even stories that if broken could prevent people from getting physically hurt. I mean, this was a case where there was an alleged serial rapist on the loose and fairly recently-

Preet Bharara:

Harvey Weinstein to be clear.

Ronan Farrow:

Fairly recent examples of him striking in a way that seemed to have an M.O. So the stakes weren’t just the abstract problem of what if an important story gets killed, but also a literal, what if the next person who walks into a room with this guy, isn’t armed with that and the knowledge that they maybe should protect themselves.

Preet Bharara:

In fairness, that was for a moment. You would agree, though, that when such a sensational allegation and serious allegation is being reported on with respect to somebody, whether they’re powerful or not, that the outlet should be somewhat cautious.

Ronan Farrow:

Absolutely.

Preet Bharara:

And rigorous.

Ronan Farrow:

There’s a reason each one of these stories that I break takes such a massive amount of time and such a massive legal and fact checking undertaking. None of this stuff in the book is fired from the hip. This stuff was vetted and re-vetted.

Preet Bharara:

Your point in the book and elsewhere is that NBC with respect to these stories, was not being sort of your usual, responsibly cautious outlet. They were not acting in good faith.

Ronan Farrow:

That’s right. So what I was saying before about not just withholding that information for kicks because I wanted people to read it in the book. It was also because it became apparent to me and everyone else on a journalistic level who witnessed what happened at that company, that something big and strange had happened, that out of fairness to all of those people who killed the story at NBC, my maxim is always fairness to the subject of the reporting, had to be investigated thoroughly.

Ronan Farrow:

It did take two years of tracking down to the point where in the book, you can read all those transcripts of secret calls they’ve now admitted that they had with Harvey Weinstein, all the cases in which they assured him it would be killed. We’re now far enough out from the book that this has been much litigated. Rachel Maddow got on air and said I’ve corroborated the claims in this book. They did kill the story.

Ronan Farrow:

People on their own air called for leadership change for an investigation, which they’ve refused to have. There’s been no outside investigation there. The key players at that news division are still in their jobs. The facts are now not really at issue. I think people know that that story was killed inappropriately and you can read a detailed timeline of it in the book but the retrospective point I would make Preet is when that blew up into the news cycle, it was this big contentious thing.

Ronan Farrow:

Since the book came out, so many executives who reported directly to Steve Burke, the at the time CEO of NBC Universal, and that’s part of what happens in the book, is this classic thing like a scene from the Insider where CBS kills the big tobacco story where the lawyers are ready to go, see comment from Harvey Weinstein and the journalists are ready to go.

Ronan Farrow:

Then the president of the network, this guy Noah Oppenheim says, you can’t go to see comment from Harvey Weinstein. We got to go to my boss. Then that guy says, we got to go to the parent company. So it gets kicked up and up and up. Since the book came out, so many of those executives at the parent company have said, oh, yeah, they were just casual about saying they were killing it. Steve Burke would sit in meetings and say, “Oh, my God, Harvey Weinstein is calling all the time this is such a pain in the ass.”

Ronan Farrow:

One recounted asking him, “Well, is it true?” And Burke just looking at him like he was crazy saying, “Is it true? We can’t run it, I’ll never hear the end of it.” So I point that out to illustrate, as this is happening to the people involved, the killing of a story like this usually just feels banal and expedient. Steve Burke was a smart businessman with a background in running theme park gift shops. He’s not a journalist.

Ronan Farrow:

Whenever you have a news organization embedded in a large company like that, and TV news organizations have to be because TV is an expensive business. So the nature of the beast is you’re going to have a big parent company most of the time. You have a lot of mixed equities, that guy’s running a movie studio that’s more significant financially fiscally, then the news division.

Preet Bharara:

So for them, because sometimes it’s the case you’re worried about a lawsuit. In this case, it was much more about the business arrangement and lost opportunities and getting on the wrong side of somebody who has power and fame or is that not so?

Ronan Farrow:

I think that’s an oversimplification. Because what Harvey Weinstein was delivering in those calls was threats that he was going to sue everyone into the ground and he had hired Charles Harder who was the attorney who brought down Gawker. So there was a combination of sticks and carrots. He sends Noah Oppenheim a bottle of Grey Goose to celebrate the killing of the story afterwards, and we have all those columns in the book. That’s a guy he’s working on who is a screenwriter, is this great passion and he’s worried about those relationships.

Ronan Farrow:

So there’s that kind of the carrots incentive part of the relationship and the leaning on them. Then there’s also the sticks, which is just constant, we’re going to see you into the ground, this is going to cause a huge loss. It’s going to shake your news organization to its core and legitimate journalists stand up to that and understand how to differentiate between a threat and a credible reality of a legal problem. I think when you’re dealing with an edict from a parent company that this must not run, suddenly those legal threats start to look really significant.

Preet Bharara:

We’ll be right back after this short break. I’m confused about something, I think maybe listeners might be also, because the context in which I think of stories being killed, there’s a parallel one from my old universe. That is a concern people have, that there’s an investigation going on in the Southern District or the District of Columbia or somewhere else and that Bill Barr might be wanting to kill an investigation, not quite the same as killing a story because he’s beholden to the president.

Preet Bharara:

I’ve often thought about that, and suggested to people, it’s really hard to kill something when it’s fully formed and it’s on the eve of indictment, or in your case on the eve of publication. That if you really want to go about it the right way, whether it’s in good faith or in bad faith, and in both circumstances, I think we mean bad faith, you want to never get Ronan out on the road in the first place.

Preet Bharara:

You want to nip that thing in the bud. You want to make sure that there are people in place, if you’re nefarious, and not get it so far down the line that now Ronan will have a good cause for saying, this was a true and real story. It’s so true and real that I ultimately got it published in the New Yorker, I could write a book about it. Explain that to us.

Ronan Farrow:

That’s astute and exactly what happens here. What you see is we bring in the first on the record interviews. In February, Rose McGowan was showing her face saying Harvey Weinstein raped me, first to admit using name on the record and then naming him on the record and saying NBC can use that. We had that for months and months and then very rapidly we had a tape of Harvey Weinstein admitting to it, this tape we’ve discussed before that was suppressed during a criminal investigation.

Ronan Farrow:

It started to become harder and harder for them to just say actually, you should stop reporting but they did say that. From the beginning from the first on the record interview we started getting these strange calls, me and my producer, both of us independently being told, let’s just put this on the back burner let’s have you not be on the road working on this.

Preet Bharara:

Was there ever a direct order that you need to stand down?

Ronan Farrow:

Yes. So it escalates to that. It starts with, why is this a priority? Your career is going so great Ronan. Your series is doing well. Why focus on this-

Preet Bharara:

It’d be a shame if something happened to that lovely career.

Ronan Farrow:

Honestly, when you review the transcripts of a lot of these communications, they’re very menacing and it’s very clear that there’s an effort to stop this from the beginning which goes from the euphemisms back burner, lot of use of that phrase. Back burner it, back burner it, all the way up to you have got to stop, you need to cancel that interview.

Preet Bharara:

But that effort fails. What ultimately succeeds in the end is the thing about which they have ultimate control and that is whether they air it or not. Fair?

Ronan Farrow:

Well, it’s more actually they send it out the door finally. There’s a confrontation. So my producer and I respond to those initial efforts to slow roll the story and order for us to back off. The producer is told, wonderful journalist named Rich McHugh, you shouldn’t be taking calls about this, focus on other things. They try to assign Rich to other stories, then we keep reporting somewhat in secret.

Ronan Farrow:

There’s all sorts of ways in the book that we try to keep it under the radar, because our assessment as well maybe they’re just spooked initially, to your point you made earlier, once we have it all solid, it’ll be fine. Then we get it solid to the point of literally having audio of him admitting to an assault and then it becomes even more uncomfortable because they’re still trying to find ways to say no.

Ronan Farrow:

It comes to a head where we have more incoming interviews. The story is still racing along in terms of the reporting more women are coming forward. There’s a woman who is willing, Ally Canosa was willing to go on camera and make this incredibly serious assault allegation and there is a hard order basically, without explanation. There’s been a lot of, oh, do we have enough? And is it news and is it worth it but there’s never been a reason articulated to us why there would be an order to stop.

Ronan Farrow:

There’s various excuses, oh, wait for this next landmark, wait for this, wait for us to assign another person. Once everything is in place, and there’s no more legitimate excuses, and we have more interviews coming in, and we’re ordered to stop, I finally am in a position where I just have to say no, and then I’m very rapidly told you’ve been terminated, you’re not getting another deal.

Ronan Farrow:

We’re both told you need to absolutely stand down. If you’re going to go rogue and continue reporting this, NBC can’t have anything to do with it. Finally, we’re all terrified that they’re going to sit on the story, that I’m not going to be able to bring it somewhere else is the big fear. So I tried to negotiate a solution where I can walk away with it and it’s a very, you can read in the book, how it went down, but it’s a real high wire act, and I am able to basically extract from Noah Oppenheim, this president of NBC, look, I don’t know what’s going on here. Clearly, there’s no meeting of the minds on getting this on air now. Why don’t I bring it to a print publication?

Ronan Farrow:

He has suggested this in various conversations already. One of the strange things about this fact pattern is the executives at NBC start saying, what you’ve got here is a great Vanity Fair story. What you’ve got here is a great New York Magazine story. So I take him up on it, and I walked out the door with it.

Preet Bharara:

Does that mean that they were less concerned about protecting Harvey Weinstein and more concerned about it just not being on them?

Ronan Farrow:

I think it’s both. There’s clearly a leadership level decision to protect Harvey Weinstein on this. It’s not worth the fight. There is also, there’s specific stuff being held over them. I delve into all the different facets of this but there is also a real symptom of just your garden variety, corporate cowardice, where exactly what you just said is happening.

Ronan Farrow:

Every single person in that chain of command passes the buck and there’s a sort of soliloquy that Noah Oppenheim gives me in the end where, this is starting to break out into the press. It’s becoming a scandal and he says, he kind of wails to me, if there’s ever a chance to tell people I wasn’t the villain, and he says, I had a boss, and this guy, it was this guy’s fault, it was that guy’s fault. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t me.

Ronan Farrow:

I do that for him. I say like, okay, Noah Oppenheimer wasn’t the villain, but that is so often what, if you want to use the term villainy, that’s what he went to looks like. It’s the novelty of-

Preet Bharara:

Of evil.

Ronan Farrow:

Yeah, not to invoke that phrase specifically, which obviously has a very specific historical context, but certainly, it is a kind of totally banal risk avoidance and corporate cowardice that leads to a lot of people getting hurt, a lot of bad things happening. None of the people whose job it was to stand up and say, A, as a matter of principle, journalistically, this is going to be a big enough story.

Ronan Farrow:

Bear in mind, just a few weeks later, it ran in the New Yorker and won the Pulitzer but B, as a pragmatic risk assessment. I’m the president of a news network. It’s my job to see when killing a story this overtly is going to be bad for the company, which it was. No one realized, oh, this is my job. Everyone does a, it’s above my pay grade. So that’s one of the big lessons that I walk away from this body of reporting with that sometimes it is your job. Stand up and do what Rich McHugh that working level producer did. It actually wasn’t his job to safeguard the story, but he did everything in his power to do so including ultimately losing his job over it.

Preet Bharara:

What you just mentioned raises an interesting issue for me that I hadn’t thought about. The ethical obligation, you have to get permission from an outlet to run a story that you were working on while you were at that outlet at some other outlet. In other words, did you have the view that NBC sort of owned the property that was the investigative reporting you were doing. So you needed to get their blessing to go to New Yorker, or could you have just done that on your own anyway?

Ronan Farrow:

Well, Harvey Weinstein was sending legal threat letters to me saying, A, I know NBC is killing the story. They have given me written assurances that they are terminating all reporting about me and won’t pursue that reporting in future. Essentially, I have a deal with them, what’s his claim. I have a deal with NBC. Then B, he was saying NBC has assured me they’re going to make a copyright claim on this material that they will assert their intellectual property rights over this footage. It actually it gets to a relatively untested area of law, the New Yorker’s legal view.

Ronan Farrow:

The New Yorker article uses all those interviews. It doesn’t use the video, it uses the contents and the New Yorker’s view was, first of all, the idea that NBC would actually make good on those promises to Harvey Weinstein is absurd. It would look totally bizarre, never hold up in court. Second of all, there is no real legitimate legal claim to the ideas and quotes in the interview. They have an intellectual property right in the footage that they paid for the cruise to create but nevertheless, they’re a powerful company and I was afraid that they might make good on that, they were already behaving so strangely on this, that I needed to get out of there.

Ronan Farrow:

I was going to say in a way that preserved my future as much as possible, but it was increasingly clear that was a lost cause, but certainly get out of there in a way that limited the likelihood that they were going to impede the story elsewhere.

Preet Bharara:

So there was one other threat that Harvey Weinstein made to NBC, I guess, relating to exposing a dark hypocrisy on the part of NBC that you write about in the book, which relates to Matt Lauer. Explain what that was about.

Ronan Farrow:

Well, this gets back to Catch and Kill the literal tabloid use of the term Catch and Kill. Harvey Weinstein had this deep relationship with the National Enquirer. Increasingly, the National Enquirer’s editor in chief Dylan Howard was holed up with him as his strategic second in command. They were going after any and all dirt they could find on anyone who was working to expose Harvey Weinstein and anything he could use as leverage. In that same period, Dylan Howard pulls a file of killed stories related to Matt Lauer.

Ronan Farrow:

We have tape in the podcast actually, in this very period of the summer of 2017. Dylan Howard very openly saying, we’re very focused on Matt Lauer right now. This isn’t speculative. They did indeed start to run story after story about Matt Lauer, including Matt Lauer and various forms of sexual impropriety. It’s all of a piece. You have a situation where a company, as it turns out, has a long history of secret payments to suppress claims of sexual misconduct within the company.

Ronan Farrow:

We saw this at CBS. We saw it at NBC and then you have someone bearing down on them with all of these both enticements and legal threats and there’s a strange intersection that happens, where I’m being told by NBC lawyers, look, you can’t report on sources that have non disclosure agreements about sexual harassment.

Ronan Farrow:

As literally in the same timeframe they have people from their legal department calling women that have been paid out to shut up about sexual impropriety at NBC. So you start to see how these kinds of practices of covering up problems and keeping powerful people accused of those kinds of problems in their jobs, instead of addressing those issues, leads to a kind of rot that then affects news coverage. It is a problem when you have a company defending these kinds of agreements and upholding them on their own end with respect to their own misconduct issues and then they’re faced with the prospect of reporting on those same kinds of legal structures.

Preet Bharara:

There are lots of reasons why NBC didn’t want to go forward. I’m glad you were able to publish both those articles and also this book but since we’ve been talking about Harvey Weinstein, a bunch we should talk for a little bit about what is most imminent with respect to the future of Harvey Weinstein, his liberty and also people’s feelings about all of this attention to the Me Too movement.

Preet Bharara:

I did read, by the way, and I wonder how you react to this personally, that during jury selection, it was reported that 50 jurors had to be sent home because they had read Catch and Kill. Do you have a reaction to that? Do you have a feeling of pride about that? Do you wish they had been able to remain on the jury?

Ronan Farrow:

Well, no reporter wants to be the story. It’s one thing that made this book so difficult that this was a story that in order to tell it, I had to bring myself into it. Harvey Weinstein thrust me into it by doing some very below the belt personal attacks and trying to bring my biography into his legal threats as much as possible. You can read all about that in the book. The killing of the story meant that the path of my career changed really fundamentally.

Ronan Farrow:

A future in network news that I thought I had went away and then a different path, as it turns out, opened up. It became apparent to me that it was worth doing something where I was a little bit the story because I was going through something where I had a platform to talk about the intimidation and the threats and being followed around and so forth. The stuff that happened to my career, where tons of reporters go through this sort of thing and don’t have a platform. So it was significant.

Ronan Farrow:

It was important body of reporting that I had to do and it did mean talking about myself, hopefully, in a way that’s as sort of vulnerable, and frank as possible. By and large, what you don’t want as a reporter is to get caught up in any kind of criminal justice repercussions that might arise even in part as a result of your reporting. You actually see that conviction play out in the part of the book, there’s a moment where your colleagues at SDNY are really eager to talk to me not as a reporter but as a witness.

Ronan Farrow:

As someone who dealt with degree of intimidation and espionage tactics that I think there’s a fair case, it may have crossed the line legally. They’re doing things like GPS location tactics on my phone. We haven’t gotten into the whole plot thread in the book that’s about me being staked out and followed but it goes up to and maybe beyond a line of legality and into, I won’t use specific legal terms of [art 00:47:22] but stuff that could meet the threshold of a variety of violations of law.

Ronan Farrow:

So there’s a real crystallization of this dilemma where, ultimately, the general counsel at the New Yorker, Fabio Bertoni, and I decide I’m not going to say yes, and comment and talk to them as a witness, because our first principle is to be journalists and separate from that. Even when we support what’s happening in a legal proceeding, that seems like it’s a good move towards accountability, our first priority is to remain disentangled from that and to protect sources involved and the moment you open the door to that kind of a conversation with law enforcement, you are risking giving up sensitive Reporting material in some way.

Ronan Farrow:

So all of that is a long preamble to say, seeing criminal repercussions in a case that has been about a powerful person dodging criminal accountability for a long time is satisfying, but I feel very attenuated from it and I think correctly so. I watched from afar.

Preet Bharara:

I wonder why that is because when last you were here, we had a fairly extended discussion about Cy Vance, the Manhattan district attorney who you were fairly critical of, for not having brought a particular case that involves that tape you were talking about against Harvey Weinstein.

Preet Bharara:

I think there’s some members of the police department who also thought that was a case that should have been brought. That case wasn’t brought and never has been brought but now you have the current criminal case against Harvey Weinstein. Why do you think the current case happened? Don’t you think it has something to do with the reporting that you and others did and a lot of people in the Me Too movement have shed light on how important is that the stuff be brought to court and people held accountable?

Ronan Farrow:

Of course, it’s absolutely as a result of a whole community of reporters that forced a spotlight on this where law enforcement had dropped the ball for a long time and despite the excellent efforts of the NYPD, this DA’s office drops the ball. The reality of reporting being solid enough to lead to criminal proceedings is something I only welcome. The fact that a lot of jurors had read the book and that that made voir dire a little more complicated in this case, is only a source of gratification, to the extent that I would care about such thing at all.

Ronan Farrow:

The fact that Harvey Weinstein’s attorney brought in a dog eared copy of Catch and Kill and read from it in open court in an effort to discredit one of the accusers, I would humbly submit a misconstruing of what is written in that book. Basically, they tried to take a case in which a woman was initially afraid to talk and presented as an inconsistency, but certainly they’re welcome to it. That’s the way it should work. I put out reporting into the public it can be used however, in a criminal process.

Ronan Farrow:

I think it is separate to become involved directly in any way beyond the use of the reporting that is-

Preet Bharara:

You’re not a witness at the trial.

Ronan Farrow:

That’s right. The Los Angeles authorities are building, what could be a very strong case, potentially and there again, there’s been outreach and inquiries about can they have any reporting material, and they’re really good guys in that DA’s office and women and I think would never subpoena a publication or be adversarial in that way. It’s a hard conversation to say, hey, I support what you’re doing. But I also can’t be a part of it because my job is different.

Preet Bharara:

It’s a weird paradox.

Ronan Farrow:

Yeah, it is.

Preet Bharara:

You have to keep those things separate and in the federal system, you probably couldn’t be issued that subpoena. It has go right up to the Attorney General I believe, to issue a subpoena like that, even if it’s for a good purpose and to hold people accountable.

Ronan Farrow:

It would be a dark day, I think if people trying to build these kinds of cases ran around trying to strong arm journalists into turning over materials.

Preet Bharara:

So how strong do you think the pending case against Harvey Weinstein is in Manhattan? The reason I asked that question is that I want to ask you, what do you think will be the consequence of a conviction and on the other hand and acquittal?

Ronan Farrow:

Well, it’s without a doubt for many of the sources that I’ve worked with a significant moment, because it’s the first time that there have been criminal proceedings against a guy who in the eyes of many of them should have faced criminal justice much sooner and already, the way that the trial has played out has been illustrative of the many extreme tactics, someone of this stature and wealth can throw at a case to chip away at it.

Ronan Farrow:

One of the episodes of the podcast is about Lucia Evans. She shows up in the book as well. One of the first women to accuse Harvey Weinstein of rape and she was a lead accuser in the criminal proceedings too, really made a very difficult decision to upend her whole life yet again to go up against Weinstein in court. It’s very interesting how he managed to get that charge dropped. He seeked private investigators on everyone around this thing and openly talked about that, bragged about it.

Ronan Farrow:

Said, we got this charge dropped because of the work of our private investigator. His attorney said that at the time, and they were able to discredit one of the NYPD detectives on the case and basically as it was told to me by sources in that DA’s office, they continued to find this woman credible, but there were enough process issues raised enough was done to assail the integrity of this cop that the charge was viewed as being kind of tainted.

Ronan Farrow:

So, you rapidly get a sense of why it’s taken so long and because of all of that, Preet, I guess the answer to the question, I don’t have a crystal ball. I think the case is stronger than not. Ultimately, Harvey Weinstein’s story is the story of a long journey of evading accountability, and it would be the least surprising thing in the universe to see that happen again.

Preet Bharara:

Are you worried a little bit that the movement and the issue is much larger than Harvey Weinstein? He might be one of the worst and most famous and most heinous exemplars of the issue and the problem in American society, but doesn’t begin and end with him. Is there a worry that we placed so much emphasis on this moment because he’s the one person of his stature has been hauled into court that either way that a conviction will put too much weight on as if there’s some broad vindication when there’s so much other problematic things going on. On the other hand, an acquittal will be overly demoralizing. Do you worry about that?

Ronan Farrow:

I think you’re framing it in exactly the right way. I don’t know who the disembodied people putting huge premium on it are, but certainly I would advise them not to. Both in the sense that within this process of various law enforcement offices trying to hold Harvey Weinstein accountable, the New York trial was just one little piece of the puzzle. If he gets off in New York, there’s a significantly more robust case waiting in Los Angeles, it’s going to be a long time, if there isn’t a conviction here. It’ll be a long time before we actually know that Harvey Weinstein is not going to be convicted.

Ronan Farrow:

So I think it would be a mistake, even within the process of this one case, to ascribe too much significance to this ruling that’s coming up. Also more broadly, you’re absolutely right. Harvey Weinstein is one person. The reason the story was so significant is partly because so many of the tactics he used to evade accountability were emblematic of a larger set of systems which are alive and well today and require more tough reporting and more strides towards accountability.

Preet Bharara:

None of his enablers are on trial, none of the people who knew what he was doing are on trial, none of the people who turned a blind eye are on trial and they will never be on trial.

Ronan Farrow:

Yeah, and I think that’s where that kind of behavior, the aiding and abetting of these crimes and I really do think that’s what happened when this story got killed over and over and over again, when people around Harvey Weinstein looks the other way. I think crimes were aided and abetted. Those aren’t acts of complicity that we have criminal charges for right now and that’s fine. I think that it’s all the more important in those cases that the court of public opinion, really take a hard look at those systems that enable this kind of criminal activity year after year.

Preet Bharara:

You mentioned the court of public opinion. So my question is about not how the court of public opinion should as I think you rightly say, should focus on the systems and protocols and issues that caused these problems to arise and this violence against women to arise but how the court of public opinion should operate with respect to specific cases against specific men, specific allegations made.

Preet Bharara:

So very loyally, in my view of all these things about what is truth, what isn’t, who’s capable, who isn’t. Harvey Weinstein has gone to trial, we’ll see what happens in that case but there are scores of other allegations, some of which are just somebody saying that somebody did something, and others of which had been vetted through, rigorous reporting with contemporaneous witnesses, and all sorts of corroborating facts that still never end up in a court of law.

Preet Bharara:

Those are still in our system of justice considered allegations that will never be tested or adjudicated in any way. They just are sort of out there, whether it’s Ronan Farrow, who we can understand is the responsible journalist, and maybe other people reporting or maybe less responsible. How should the public judge the people who have been accused through reporting, but then ultimately never have their day in court in either direction?

Ronan Farrow:

Well, it’s clearly a case by case. So you draw the distinction between someone who is accused in a lightly reported context of a serious crime or even a completely unreported context. There’s all sorts of social media posts saying so and so did such and such a terrible thing.

Preet Bharara:

There are lists on-

Ronan Farrow:

Sure, various terrible men lists and forget this specific subset of sexual violence, with respect to any kind of criminal activity, I would like to think that the public is sophisticated enough to draw a pretty bright distinction between that sort of thing, and really detailed investigative reporting that meets a very high evidentiary bar. It’s absolutely pivotal to the future of the Republic, that we have that kind of intensive investigative reporting that can hold powerful people accountable, especially in those cases where they’re not likely to yield criminal proceedings as part of the aftermath.

Ronan Farrow:

That kind of reporting has to stand on its own and present to the public, hey, here’s a really persuasive set of facts that should make us think twice about whatever the issue we’re writing about is. As someone who cares a lot about rigorous reporting, of course, and troubled by the that anyone would ever conflate those two things. I’m troubled by the idea that an unsourced blog post or tweet would ever be mistaken for reporting.

Ronan Farrow:

I haven’t seen a lot of that happen. I think people are pretty savvy about drawing the distinction between some kind of a list that’s thrown out there by whatever concerned citizens and a big New York Times investigation that clearly serves up the goods on some significant problem but if those things were ever conflated, I would say that’s a mistake to do that.

Preet Bharara:

What about the conflation of actions on the part of different people? I think some people have gotten in trouble for suggesting that there’s a variation among the various people who have been accused with respect to how serious their conduct was. If Harvey Weinstein who’s been accused of being a serial rapist, and you have other people who have done lesser things, do you get into that debate at all? Does that matter?

Ronan Farrow:

I get into it less because I’ve only reported on cases that rise to a very high bar of criminal activity and only include sort of alleged lesser offenses if they cooperate an M.O. that also extends to a more extreme degree of criminality.

Preet Bharara:

Why have you made that choice?

Ronan Farrow:

Because my time is limited, and I’m only one person and I’m looking for very serious acts of corruption or malfeasance or whatever kind of criminal activity that demand that limited bandwidth that I can give. So I haven’t really weighted into any kind of debate about less serious allegations that maybe are still worthy of public discourse. I think that there absolutely is a space that’s kind of an overlap in the Venn diagram, where it isn’t necessarily a degree of seriousness, that would be the anchor point of a big body of investigative reporting for me that I spend a year hunting down, but it still demands some legitimate conversation about was this okay. I think it’s totally permissible that that would happen and I think we’ve actually seen some pretty good newspaper reporting that falls into that more in between category.

Preet Bharara:

Can we talk about lawyers for another second? We’re both Trained Lawyers all the way practiced, you didn’t but lawyers played a big role both in a good way and in a bad way, in a lot of the stories and throughout your book. Do you have a view on what the role of an attorney should be in connection with these allegations? And there was particular targeting of you in hiring of a firm named Black Cube. I’m throwing you a whole bunch of objectionable compound questions to get at this issue and have you maybe explain to us how you’re thinking about the role of lawyers acting ethically and appropriately has evolved if it has evolved at all.

Ronan Farrow:

It’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to as someone who got into the legal profession because I believed in it and took the bar and pay my bar dues, because I still believe in it and who encounters stories all the time that come to light because of good lawyering. So many whistleblowers that I’ve worked with are represented by wonderful attorneys who do that kind of work of working with government whistleblowers or other types of whistleblowers.

Ronan Farrow:

Every story that I do sees the light of day because of good media lawyering because Fabio Bertoni, the general counsel The New Yorker is a badass and really is oriented towards both legal caution and journalistic empowerment as his goals. At every publication where you see tough stories breaking, it’s probably because of a lawyer got behind it and said, Okay, here’s how we do it carefully and do it right, but do it.

Ronan Farrow:

Then, as you suggested, the book is riddled with instances of lawyers doing things that seem totally contrary to the ethics of the profession, from my standpoint, that are duplicitous, that are underhanded. There’s the whole phalanx of attorneys who shielded Harvey Weinstein and went after reporters working on the story and accusers trying to bring these kinds of claims to light. You have someone like Lisa Bloom, who’s really a double agent in the plot.

Preet Bharara:

Explain that.

Ronan Farrow:

So Lisa Bloom is a self styled women’s rights activist. She’s someone who was a regular on my cable news program, always talking about the perils of powerful men evading accountability after alleged sex crimes, representing victims of Bill Cosby and Donald Trump and so forth, and who had written voluminously on how credible my sister’s claim about Woody Allen was, and is someone I turned to for advice, as I was working with these sources with NDAs and NBC was getting hinky about that kind of reporting on the NDAs, before I had uncovered the full story of why, and who at the time unbeknownst to me, it was representing Harvey Weinstein to try to kill stories about him and smear his accusers.

Ronan Farrow:

It makes for an unsettling plot thread to return to and it was unsettling when I realized it at the time. I had a conversation with her at the end of all that where I said, “You promised you wouldn’t tell his people.” She had disclosed that she had a relationship with him of some kind, but not that she was representing him. She said, “Well, this is an awkward position that I’m in because he optioned my book. He’s making a movie out of it, and I am his people.”

Ronan Farrow:

I’ll never forget that phrase and the reason that I knew that and was having that conversation with her was her name started to appear on the legal threat letters that were coming at me, which among other points, tried to use as a [cajole 01:03:19] the idea that my sister had been brainwashed, which is such a clearly irrelevant consideration in the claims about Harvey Weinstein, but it was all-

Preet Bharara:

They got very personal with respect to you.

Ronan Farrow:

Right, it was sort of designed to unsettle and shake me.

Preet Bharara:

Did it?

Ronan Farrow:

Of course, of course. I was losing my job over it at the time. So it was all an unsettling period and I was more than that, afraid that story would never see the light of day. The shock of someone who I considered an ethically conscientious lawyer, who had built a brand about going up against these kinds of power structures, being so embedded in them, was really emblematic of a much wider swath of the sort of bad loitering we see and the compromises of conscience that, unfortunately, sometimes afflict our profession.

Preet Bharara:

You would agree that Harvey Weinstein is entitled to a defense?

Ronan Farrow:

Of course. Harvey Weinstein is entitled to a vigorous and robust defense, up to and including, by the way, potentially, those attorneys using private investigators. I think that-

Preet Bharara:

[inaudible 01:04:16].

Ronan Farrow:

Right. I think that the reason that so many people look at this fact pattern and say, what Harvey Weinstein was doing with these attorneys, and the PIs that they hired crosses a line that is not just him having the vigorous defense he’s entitled to, but is actually hurting other people, or breaking the rules in a way we’re not comfortable with.

Preet Bharara:

And causing them to have fear and terrorizing them.

Ronan Farrow:

That’s right. It’s when it crosses over into sort of terrorizing people and things like not just hiring PIs to do open source research, but hiring PIs who hire subcontractors who follow around and potentially hijack the phones of journalists.

Preet Bharara:

You mentioned that before. Lawyers hired investigators to follow you.

Ronan Farrow:

Right. So lawyers, in this case Boies Schiller hired, and this has been admitted to in court now it’s part of the trial, hired this Israeli private intelligence firm, Black Cube. Black Cube hired local subcontractors who followed me around and one of whom becomes a source over the course of the book and gives a detailed play by play of exactly what they were doing. It would have to be determined in a legal proceeding, when and where and if that crossed legal lines, but I can tell you being on the receiving end of it, it’s not the sort of thing you want to see happening routinely to reporters working on stories. Certainly it was enough that SDNY did open a fraud investigation.

Preet Bharara:

As far as you know, were you followed here?

Ronan Farrow:

I’ll be sure to sic my tails on you.

Preet Bharara:

Because we don’t want our guests being intimidated when they come on Stay Tuned.

Ronan Farrow:

Thank you Preet.

Preet Bharara:

You seem not to have been.

Ronan Farrow:

The other facet of bad lawyering that I would just point to before we move on from this point is, there’s the kind of direct Act support for Harvey Weinstein and his effort to kill this story that crossed a lot of lines. Then there’s the lawyering around efforts to report on this. Overall, I am so grateful for the lawyers who empower these stories and the fact that I landed in a place where I encountered that.

Ronan Farrow:

So my predominant feeling is a positive one but it is worth noting that this story stayed quiet as long as it did and people continue to get hurt as long as they did, partly because media lawyers and news outlets bowed to power and the edicts of their bosses that were made for unjournalistic reasons and were willing to articulate pretty thin, phony legal arguments to try to cover for that.

Ronan Farrow:

You see lawyers with legitimate reputations, Kim Harris, who used to work at the White House, saying things that you could look at her and know she didn’t buy that this was a real legal threat, but doing her soldier’s best to follow in order to kill a story about an alleged serial rapist.

Preet Bharara:

Let me just end on a more upbeat note. Because something you wrote struck me, and it’s this. I would not have written this book, if I thought it was just a glum and dreary account of how broken our systems are, or how acute the power imbalance is. It is a hopeful story about how whistleblowers at every turn, expose the truth. It certainly is.

Ronan Farrow:

Thank you for that Preet. I’ve been heartened by the whole reaction to this book, it was a real labor of love. It meant coming in guns blazing, knowing the reporting was going to be bulletproof and survive, but still going into battle and realizing that I was burning a ton of bridges with powerful people and powerful places. It’s been incredibly gratifying to see how invested people have been in it and also how they’ve gotten that point that you just made.

Ronan Farrow:

How people have walked away from it feeling optimistic, and realizing that the discussion of the obstacles in here is ultimately in service of the realization that we’re going to continue to surmount those obstacles because the free press is alive and well and the sources are still brave and the whistleblowers keep coming.

Preet Bharara:

Catch and Kill, read the book, listen to the podcast. Ronan Farrow. It’s been a pleasure. Thanks again for coming to the show.

Ronan Farrow:

Thank you Preet. Always a pleasure.

Preet Bharara:

The conversation continues for members of the CAFE Insider community. To hear the Stay Tuned bonus with Ronan Farrow and get the weekly CAFE Insider podcast and other exclusive content, head to café.com/insider. Right now you can try a CAFE Insider membership free for two weeks at cafe.com/insider. If you’re a student with a valid .edu email address, there’s now a special rate. Head to café.com/student. So I want to end this week’s program with a note from within the legal profession.

Preet Bharara:

As you know I’m a lawyer and I sometimes even play one on TV and if you’ve been following the world, you know that the legal profession is not been historically especially diverse. Like many other professions, it’s long been dominated by white males. So the interesting milestone I want to tell you about is not just about the law and the legal profession, but also relates to struggles throughout our country and throughout the world for equality, inclusiveness and diversity.

Preet Bharara:

So for a long time, it’s been very difficult for women to reach the same positions and the same numbers as men in the law in America. When I graduated from law school in 1993, only 43% of first year law students were women. There have of course been tremendous milestones. Women participate in the profession at the highest levels more than any time in the past. So for example, there are more women on the Supreme Court than ever before, but that’s only three out of nine.

Preet Bharara:

There are more women law school Deans than ever before, but that’s only 35%. There are more women equity partners in major law firms in the country, but that’s only 19%. There are more women in the House of Representatives than ever before, but that’s just 23.4%. That’s why a recent article in The Washington Post caught my eye. As the Post reports, for the first time ever, the 16 top law schools in the country, and that includes Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, Duke, Columbia, which is my alma mater, NYU Law School, which is where I teach, in all 16 of those top ranked law schools, the editor in chief of the flagship Law Journal is a woman.

Preet Bharara:

16 women, 16 editors-in-chief at the top law journals in the United States. What’s a law Journal? It’s a good question. I served on my law journal and I often used to ask that question myself. Suffice it to say for lay people, it’s an academic journal, in which top flight academic articles are published, that expand people’s understandings of the law, go deep on issues of jurisprudence, and it’s pretty much the highest and most prestigious credential a law student can achieve.

Preet Bharara:

It’s the key to opening doors at the best law firms. The key to the most prestigious clerkships including on the Supreme Court of the United States, and forever follows you as one of the most impressive, if not the most impressive credential that a person can earn. Law School. Brock Obama, for example, was the first African American president of Law Review at Harvard. But not only that, to become the president of the flagship Law Journal at your school, you have to be entrusted by your peers to be exceptionally smart, exceptionally rigorous, and have tremendous leadership skills.

Preet Bharara:

So congratulations to these 16 women. Now, lest we get too excited, let’s remember, given the metrics I recited earlier, there’s still a long way to go before there is parity in pay and parity in position for women in the law. So with that, I leave you with some wise words from the one and only notorious RBG.

RBG:

Help me finish the sentence, okay? There will be enough female justices on the Supreme Court when there are? You know what the answer is. When there are nine of course. Thank you.

Preet Bharara:

Well that’s it for this episode of Stay Tuned. Thanks again to my guest, Ronan Farrow. If you like what we do, rate and review the show on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. Every positive review helps new listeners find the show. Send me your questions about US politics and justice. Tweet them to me at Preet Bharara with the hashtag, #askpreet. Or you can call and leave me a message at 669-247-7338.

Preet Bharara:

That’s 669-24 PREET or you can send an email to [email protected] Stay Tuned is presented by CAFE. The executive producer is Tamara Sepper. The senior audio producer is David Tatasciore and the CAFE team is Julia Doyle, Matthew Billy, David Kurlander, Calvin Lord, Sam Ozer-Staton and Geoff Isenman. Our music is by Andrew Dost. I’m Preet Bharara. Stay tuned.

 

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