U.S. district attorney in charge of News Corp. probe is ‘best friends’ with Murdoch point-man leading internal investigation

Joe Pompeo

From the conflict of interest department: Viet Dinh, the attorney and News Corporation board member overseeing an internal investigation into illegal activities within the embattled company, is reportedly best friends with Preet Bharara, the attorney leading the U.S. investigation into the same matter.

Time's Massimo Calabresi has the scoop:

Dinh and Bharara met their first week of freshman year at Harvard when they landed in a seminar together. "The topic of the day was whether the framers of the Constitution conceived man as good or evil," Dinh told me in 2007 when I interviewed him for a profile of Bharara, who was then leading the Senate investigation into the firing of U.S. attorneys by Bush administration political figures. "We ended up debating and arguing through the night until we went to breakfast and argued some more and then went to lunch," Dinh said.

From there they became good friends. Bharara was best man at Dinh's wedding. Professionally, they went to opposite parties but have stayed close. "He's been my best friend through Whitewater and through impeachment and through the USA Patriot Act, and God knows what kind of hurt he took from his Democratic friends," Dinh said in my interview with him, praising Bharara even as he took the lead on the U.S. Attorneys investigation. "So I'm glad there's a little bit of payback time now," Dinh said.

According to Calabresi, it's unclear whether either man offered to recuse himself. Both declined to be interview for his item.

Simultaneous probes are currently unfolding to determine the extent to which journalists at News Corp.'s U.K. papers--or elsewhere within the conglomerate, for that matter--engaged in criminal behavior such as phone-hacking and the bribing of police. In the United States, there is speculation that journalists formerly employed by the British tabloid News of the World may have attempted to access the voicemails of 9/11 victims.

News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch is expected to address the scandal on the company's quarterly earnings call this afternoon.