ALBANY - Gov. Cuomo has lawyered up as the scandal over the handling of his anti-corruption commission has grown, the Daily News has learned.
Cuomo hired prominent white collar criminal defense lawyer Elkan Abramowitz in May to represent the governor’s office, sources told The News.
Cuomo’s top aides, Secretary to the Governor Larry Schwartz and counsel Mylan Denerstein, have also hired their own personal attorneys, the sources said. Cuomo separately has sought advice from several lawyers, the sources said.
Abramowitz confirmed to The News that he was hired to represent the executive chamber. He said he is serving in much the same role Denerstein might have filled if she wasn’t a potential witness.
Denerstein, who is set to soon leave the administration, is scheduled to meet with U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office sometime this month.
Abramowitz once served as an assistant deputy mayor in the city and was a chief of the criminal division in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office that is investigating Cuomo.
Cuomo’s office had no comment.
And just because one Moreland disclosure isn't enough tonight, Capital Confidential had another one:
Joseph Percoco, a longtime political aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, contacted several members of the state’s now-shuttered anti-corruption commission during the past week and encouraged them to make public statements supporting the governor and affirming the panel’s independence.
According to multiple sources familiar with the matter, Percoco allegedly offered to provide draft statements to those he contacted, and in some cases encouraged them to communicate with him through private emails rather than using their government email accounts.
Monday’s flurry of statements from Moreland members prompted a warning Wednesday from U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who is looking into allegations that the administration interfered with the panel’s investigations.
Percoco, who previously served as the governor’s executive deputy secretary, has worked for Cuomo’s re-election campaign committee for several months. A quiet but formidable lawyer, he has been a behind-the-scenes fixture in Cuomo’s inner circle for many years, including during his four years as state attorney general and in his earlier role as U.S. housing secretary.
Attempts to reach Percoco were not successful.
Percoco allegedly offered to provide draft statements to the Moreland Commission members he contacted, the one's he and his boss wanted to publicly support the governor and say that Cuomo did not tamper with the commission?
Geez, you just can't make that up, can you?
I'm not a lawyer, but isn't Percoco's offering to draft the statements the governor wanted the commission members to make witness tampering, as Stephen Gillers laid out in The Nation?
Bharara has a basis to investigate Cuomo himself and his aides. The statute would be 18 USC 1512(b) and possibly others. It is a crime to knowingly corruptly persuade another to keep information from an official proceeding. That's the Arthur Andersen case in the Supreme Court among others.
There is a sitting grand jury, which is an official proceeding, and former Commissioners must have been aware that they could be witnesses even if not yet subpoenaed. Cuomo would also be so aware.
Bharara is warning Cuomo that any effort to coordinate a false story (of non-intervention) that these Commissioners would tell the grand jury if called would be a federal crime. This is so even if their statements are so far only public statements, even if the effort fails because the Commissioners don't testify. The statute forbids attempts.
Now, as I say, it may all be innocent. The Commissioners who spoke out, and who prior to doing so may have been contacted by the governor's people to solicit their statements (Bharara says he "has reason to believe" they were), may have spoken truthfully with no "knowing corrupt persuasion" at play.
But Monday's events put the governor is at risk in ways he was not before. The US obstruction statutes are incredibly broad. Whoever got the idea to coordinate the concurrent Commissioner statements, assuming there was coordination and not a coincidence, and even if any such idea was entirely benign, may not have been aware of what they were handing Bharara for investigation.
Again, I'm not a lawyer and I know Cuomo does this stuff all the time, having statements he wants other politicians and public figures make drafted for them.
But the difference here is, these commissioners may have to testify before a federal grand jury over whether Cuomo was meddling in their work for the Moreland Commission.
Starts to sound very much like tampering to me if Percoco gave the statements of support to those commissioners.