The Daily News reports some potential problems for Cuomo that the US attorney may be looking at:
The Daily News reported Wednesday night that Cuomo's soon-to-be-defunct Moreland Commission has agreed to turn over all its documents to Bharara's office.
The News also detailed last fall involvement by Cuomo and his aides in the operation of the Moreland Commission. Cuomo aides, the News reported, ordered the panel to withhold certain subpoenas that were set to go to interests with ties to the governor, including the Real Estate Board of New York and the state Democratic Party. The News also reported last fall that Cuomo and his staff met directly with the commission's co-chairs last September.
Bharara called such revelations troubling, if true.
""I don't know what all the facts are," he said. "What I can tell you is that it's impossible to overstate the importance of independence on the part of any investigative body. And that is particular true when you're talking about investigative bodies, whether they're the public corruption unit in my office or something like the Moreland Commission, for there to be independence.
"Without independence, the public does not trust what investigations are taking place, does not trust what prosecutions are brought, does not trust what results are gotten from those investigations and prosecutions. So people should take very very seriously any suggestion--and I take them seriously when people suggest it about our office or any other office in the Justice Department--that there was either influence or interference."
"When my public corruption unit operate, it has to operate without fear or favor, without reference to what political party the targets are from, without reference to what editorial pages are saying, without reference to what people's personal ambitions are."
Bharara's investigators are set to pick up the documents from the commission sometime Thursday. They will go through them to see if there are any leads to follow that the commission didn't get to finish because Cuomo disbanded it after the Legislature as part of the new state budget agreed to different ethic reform measures.
He also didn't rule out potentially looking at the actions of Cuomo and his aides--a potential issue for a governor heading into re-election season..
Asked directly if he is planning a formal ethics probe into the governor, Bharara said: "I'm not going to prejudge what we'll be looking at , what we'll be investigating, and where the facts will lead."
In short, Bharara says he will go after Cuomo and/or his aides if the evidence warrants that.
Given the reports of interference from Cuomo and his aides, I think there is a lot of potential trouble here for Cuomo.
Here's what the Times reported today:
In announcing the closing of the commission, Mr. Cuomo said that new ethics legislation, including tougher laws on bribery and corruption, and improved enforcement of election law, would stand in the panel’s stead.But many of the panel’s commissioners were troubled by the move, several said in interviews.
One commissioner, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of antagonizing the governor, complained of meddling by some of Mr. Cuomo’s top aides in the panel’s investigative work.This commissioner said Lawrence S. Schwartz, the governor’s secretary, and Mylan L. Denerstein, Mr. Cuomo’s counsel, “would routinely call and say, ‘How can you issue a subpoena like this?’ or ‘These people shouldn’t be on it.’ “
In September, Mr. Cuomo had at least two private meetings with the chairmen of the commission, according to records of his daily schedule. In one instance, Mr. Cuomo’s office persuaded the commission to delay issuing a subpoena to the Real Estate Board of New York, whose leaders donated to the governor’s campaigns and supported a business coalition, the Committee to Save New York, that spent millions of dollars on advertising in support of his agenda.
The commissioner asserted that Mr. Cuomo had publicly trumpeted the panel’s independence while privately seeking to control and direct it.“Andrew says this is the finest group of law enforcement people who have ever been assembled, and they’re independent,” the commissioner said. “That was never the case.”“And the fact that he wants to declare it a triumph is ridiculous,” the commissioner added.
Helluva way for Cuomo to kick off his re-election year, having to defend against these stories in the media.
And remember too that Cuomo, ever the sledgehammer in politics, has bruised and battered enough people that they're going to be looking to get even with him.
This Moreland Commission mess may just give them the opportunity to do that, the way Bridgegate gave critics of Chris Christie the opportunity to get even with the NJ governor (think Dawn Zimmer and the allegations that Christie's lieutentant governor tried to extort a real estate development out of her in return for Sandy aid.)
As I wrote in an earlier post, this may turn out to be nothing and Cuomo will go on as impervious to scandal as ever.
But the potential is there for it to turn out very, very badly for him too - especially in a re-election year.
I can imagine Cuomo's GOP opponent, Rob Astorino running these sorts of ads against Sheriff Andy:
Him "I'm Rob Astorino and I'm NOT under investigation by the US attorney's office for corruption, unlike my opponent, Governoe Andrew M. Cuomo, who is alleged to have tampered with criminal investigations being conducted by the Moreland Commission..."