Remember earlier this year when news emerged that Preet Bharara, the Attorney General investigating News Corp.'s phone hacking practices in the United States, also happens to be best friends with a key member of News Corp.'s board? Well, it appears Bharara noticed the criticism that it does not look good for a federal prosecutor to be good pals with an executive who is in charge of getting to the bottom of a scandal. The News Corp. board member in question is Viet Dinh, who served as the best man at Bharara's wedding and is presently tasked with company's internal investigation into the phone hacking allegations. Media Matters' Eric Boehlert reports:
The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, has recused himself from the office's ongoing investigation into News Corp. because of a longstanding friendship with a News Corp. board member.
The U.S. Attorney's office does not publicly announce when recusals are made, but spokeswoman Ellen Davis confirmed to Media Matters that Bharara took himself off the investigation several months ago. Bharara consulted with the Department of Justice's ethicist who concluded he did not have to recuse himself, but that "in order to avoid even the appearance of impropriety" he opted to do so, says Davis.
As Boehlert makes clear, Bharara hasn't been working on the News Corp. case for months, but it's unclear if he stepped back before or after the firestorm of media reports suggesting the danger of nepotism in the Newsd Corp. investigation. But then again it's also unclear if it would've made much of a difference either way. The U.S. prosecutors have been virtually silent about the progress of phone hacking allegations on this side fo the pond, though Bloomberg did offer an update in September that the probe had expanded to include bribery as well as hacking. Media Matters also discovered in September that investigators had contacted out Robert Emmel, a former News Corp. employee turned-whistleblower, to find out more information about the company's shady practices.
Regardless of what happens with the phone hacking investigation, it looks like Bharara will continue to stay focused on convicting Wall Street's white collar criminals. He's evidently very good at that. And in the meantime, he might've saved face too.