In an escalation of the confrontation between the United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo over the governor’s cancellation of his own anticorruption commission, Mr. Bharara has threatened to investigate the Cuomo administration for possible obstruction of justice or witness tampering.The warning, in a sharply worded letter from Mr. Bharara’s office, came after several members of the panel issued public statements defending the governor’s handling of the panel, known as the Moreland Commission, which Mr. Cuomo created last year with promises of cleaning up corruption in state politics but shut down abruptly in March.Mr. Bharara’s office has been investigating the shutdown of the commission, and pursuing its unfinished corruption cases, since April.In the letter, sent late Wednesday afternoon to a lawyer for the panel, prosecutors alluded to a number of statements made by its members on Monday, which generally defended Mr. Cuomo’s handling of the commission. The statements were released on the same day Mr. Cuomo first publicly responded to a report in The New York Times that described how he and his aides had compromised the commission’s work.At least some of those statements were prompted by calls from the governor or his emissaries, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation who were unwilling to be named for fear of reprisal.One commissioner who received a call from an intermediary on behalf of the governor’s office said he found the call upsetting and declined to make a statement.The letter from prosecutors, which was read to The New York Times, says, “We have reason to believe a number of commissioners recently have been contacted about the commission’s work, and some commissioners have been asked to issue public statements characterizing events and facts regarding the commission’s operation.”“To the extent anyone attempts to influence or tamper with a witness’s recollection of events relevant to our investigation, including the recollection of a commissioner or one of the commission’s employees, we request that you advise our office immediately, as we must consider whether such actions constitute obstruction of justice or tampering with witnesses that violate federal law.” ...
The letter noted “the commissioners and the commission’s employees are important witnesses in this ongoing investigation, and information from those with personal knowledge of facts of the investigation is highly material to that investigation.”
The letter warned that tampering with the recollections of commission members or employees could be a crime, and directed them to preserve any records of “actual or attempted contact” along those lines.
Can't get any starker than that:
Preet to Sheriff Andy: Stop fucking around with the Moreland Commission witnesses and evidence or you're getting hit with witness tampering and obstruction charges.
This comes on top of Bharara lunching earlier in the week with Attorney General Scheiderman in a place where they were guaranteed to be seen:
At the height of Moreland madness, two of the most high profile players in this seemingly never-ending saga – US Attorney Preet Bharara and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman – met for a very public lunch in lower Manhattan yesterday, multiple sources confirm.
The Democratic duo was spotted lunching at City Hall Restaurant – an eatery favored by members of the New York City political set due to its proximity to (you guessed it) City Hall. Schneiderman and Bharara have known each other in a professional capacity for the past several years, but aren’t personal friends, according to a source familiar with their relationship.
It’s worth noting that Bharara, who is investigating the demise of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s now-defunct corruption-busting Moreland Commission, would probably not be seen in such a public place with Schneiderman if the attorney general was a target of that probe.
Given the role that Schneiderman played, however, through his agreement to deputize its 25 members to broaden their purview beyond the executive branch and loaning of top aides to staff the commission, it’s possible that he is providing information to the US attorney as the investigation progresses.
If it wasn't already clear before the events of this week, with Cuomo flailing away at a press conference on Monday, contradicting himself over his previous statements (and the official statement his administration gave to the NY Times in response to their Moreland piece) and now Bharara sending Cuomo a couple of not-so-subtle messages, it should be now:
The US Attorney is looking very, very closely at Governor Cuomo in these Moreland investigations and Sheriff Andy has no idea what to do about it.