Gov. Cuomo is making Mayor de Blasio’s life miserable any chance he gets.
In the last two weeks alone, he refused to endorse de Blasio for mayor in 2017 and smooched his political foil, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, in Puerto Rico.
And Cuomo last week told CBS 2 reporter Marcia Kramer — who was publicly stonewalled by de Blasio days earlier for asking an “off-topic” question at a press conference — “I’ll take any questions from you that you want to ask.”
Cuomo has even set aside skirmishes with state Attorney General Eric Schniederman and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, a Cuomo political consultant told The Post.
“Cuomo aides said he’s buried the hatchet, especially with Schneiderman, and now he just wants to fight with de Blasio,” the source said.
“They said, ‘Priority Number One is being anti-Bill de Blasio.’ ”
The governor toys with de Blasio like a cat with a mouse because “it makes him feel good,” a Cuomo insider told The Post.
“This whole situation — which the mayor started — only charged the governor up and provided him with focus and direction. And he realizes how much he loves doing it. There’s no downside.”
“The mayor has a huge job going from crisis to crisis, but the governor can sit back and pick his battles — and all of this is designed in some way as a ‘f- -k you’ to the mayor,” the consultant said.
Cuomo never saw de Blasio as an equal, sources said.
“It’s about who’s the biggest Italian, who’s a real new Yorker,” the consultant said. “He thinks he’s smarter, that de Blasio doesn’t work so hard, and that he’s beneath him.”
Let's leave aside how pathetic it is for Governor Cuomo to have to be the "biggest Italian" in politics, how childish it is that his "Priority Number # 1 is being anti-Bill de Blasio" when there are, you know other priorities to take care of (like getting health insurance for the 200,000 New Yorkers who lost it last week when the state's Obamacare health co-op went belly-up or putting a stop to the hemorrhaging of jobs in upstate New York) and focus on what the whole "Fuck you!" relationship with de Blasio is really about and why its ratcheted up over the last year.
It's not because de Blasio "started it," as one Cuomo source said (perhaps Cuomo himself, since we know he sometimes sources his own anonymous quotes.)
It's not because Cuomo has serious policy differences with de Blasio (especially since Cuomo has essentially co-opted de Blasio's progressive agenda post-Teachout challenge.)
It is because Cuomo is a bully, someone who enjoys screwing with people (like a cat enjoys torturing a mouse before killing it.)
But the bully thing doesn't explain the whole piece of it, the relish Cuomo gets with sticking it to de Blasio over and over and making screwing with him his "Number #1 Priority."
You know what does explain it?
That Cuomo can screw with de Blasio while another fellow, someone as smart and strategic and ruthless as himself, screws with him.
And that fellow is Preet Bharara, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who currently has former Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver on trial for corruption, will have former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos on trial for corruption next week and has at least two investigations involving Cuomo going on (the first being Cuomo's shutting of the Moreland Commission and his meddling with it both before and after; the second being his Buffalo Billion Project.)
Chris Smith covered the Moreland angle and how Preet stole Cuomo's thunder on it:
Cuomo seemed off-balance, unable to figure out how to regain authority over what he’d set in motion. “Giving up control is not something I’ve done often in my life,” the governor writes in All Things Possible, his recent autobiography, recounting his reluctance to rely on navigational instruments during a foggy boat trip down the East Coast. That alarming feeling of being at the mercy of outside forces returned as Cuomo struggled to regain his grip on Moreland. “He was disoriented by it, knocked off his game,” a Cuomo adviser says. “Every governor is going to have a catastrophe or two. Often they’re financial, but Andrew’s recession was Preet and Moreland.”
For Bharara, the commission turned out to be both a provocation and a research gift. Now armed with Moreland’s leads, the prosecutor went about finishing the commission’s work. He reissued subpoenas to the firms employing Silver and Skelos and got documents Moreland had been denied. The papers and witnesses exposed how Silver had allegedly leveraged his political power to make $4 million in outside income through two schemes. In the first, prosecutors say, Silver pressured real-estate developers to hire a small law firm, Goldberg & Iryami; the firm then funneled part of its fee to Silver, even though he did no work for it. In the second, far more lucrative arrangement, Bharara claims that a doctor directed patients with asbestos-related illnesses to Silver, who signed them up as clients for Weitz & Luxenberg, a major personal-injury law firm. Silver received more than $3 million in fees; the doctor, prosecutors say, got $500,000 in state grant money for medical research with Silver’s help.
In January 2015, Cuomo delivered a strikingly upbeat State of the State speech, complete with a PowerPoint slide depicting himself, Dean Skelos, and Silver as the “Three Amigos,” because they’d become such close collaborators, delivering four straight on-time budgets after years of blown deadlines, pre-Cuomo. That night, the Times’ website dropped another bombshell: Bharara would be arresting Silver on corruption charges. In an added layer of irony, Bharara would use Cuomo’s own 2011 ethics reforms to help indict Silver. Silver has pleaded not guilty.
In May, Bharara convulsed the state capital again by charging Skelos with extortion and soliciting bribes in a convoluted attempt to help his son, Adam. According to the indictment, Skelos supposedly persuaded a New York real-estate executive to pay commissions to Adam, helped Adam get a consulting job for which he was unqualified at an environmental firm, used his office to help the firm get a multimillion-dollar government contract, and leaned on the pollution-control company to pay his son more or risk losing Skelos’s support for the contract bid. Both Skeloses have pleaded not guilty.
It is unusual, and perhaps unprecedented, for a U.S. Attorney to pursue an extended investigation of state government. That may have been one of the reasons the governor’s team underestimated Bharara, figuring he would lose interest in Albany after scoring a few headlines. “For the first time in Cuomo’s tenure, he had somebody like himself messing with him,” says an Albany insider who knows the governor well. “Andrew had always been the guy who threw the banana peel, which is why he didn’t see what was going on with Preet for a long time.”
Cuomo has survived the Preet scrutiny into Moreland so far, but that doesn't mean it hasn't affected him, as Fred Dicker reported back in June:
Paralysis and “paranoia’’ brought on by US Attorney Preet Bharara’s ongoing corruption probe have come to define Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his administration with just seven days to go in the legislative session, a worried Cuomo ally and others have told The Post.
“Something is wrong. The place is paralyzed and the governor is not right. He seems frantic at times. He’s not acting the way he normally did,’’ said the ally, a prominent Cuomo political backer and longtime associate who has contact with the governor’s administration on a near-daily basis.
“Cuomo is paranoid, his staff is paranoid and nobody can make a decision on key issues, like the [about-to-expire housing construction subsidy] 421-a program and other big outstanding issues.
“Hardly anything is getting done, Cuomo has gone into seclusion, you can’t get to him, you don’t know what he’s thinking,’’ the ally, who described himself as a “friend’’ and “admirer’’ of Cuomo, continued.
The ally, well-known to most Albany insiders in both the Democratic and Republican parties, said Bharara’s investigation of Albany corruption that led to the indictment of two leaders of the Legislature earlier this year “badly shook’’ Cuomo because, he said, “nobody on the inside doubts that Bharara’s ultimate target is the governor himself.’’
The insider’s assessment of Cuomo’s peculiar behavior was echoed by others close to the governor’s office. One described Cuomo as “kind of lost, kind of out of it.’’
While Cuomo may have seemed "kind of lost, kind of out of it..." back in June, by late summer he seemed at least partly back on his game.
Gotham Gazette reported back in September that Cuomo had gotten his "mojo" back by focusing his animosity and scorn on de Blasio and using that as his governing motivation:
Cuomo had used de Blasio as a punching bag for months before de Blasio's explosion, even apparently giving publications blind quotes attacking the mayor. But with the feud spilling out into the open, observers say Cuomo was freed in a way, even given a gift--a political opponent to war with in the open.
The mayor's declaration of war was something pundits and sources close to the Cuomo administration say the governor desperately needed. "The governor is at his best when he has someone to duel in the political arena," one Albany insider told Gotham Gazette. "It is also when he is apt to make mistakes, but he comes alive when he is going for the kill."
It certainly seems to have worked in that Cuomo no longer seems "kind of lost, kind of out of it..." when it comes to governing.
Instead he seems to be intent on doing all he can to destroy de Blasio.
But that hasn't put an end to the Preet Problem he's got - here's Chris Smith again:
The governor has lately been regaining his political footing, tacking left by raising the state’s minimum wage and expanding New York’s protections for the transgendered. Bharara, though, isn’t going away. In September, he opened a new front in his war with Cuomo. The prosecutor has started delving into the “Buffalo Billion,” one of the governor’s highest-profile, most expensive pet projects, which is investing a billion dollars to spur the development of high-tech, medical, and tourism businesses in western New York. Bharara subpoenaed the SUNY Polytechnic Institute to examine its role in choosing the builder of a solar-panel factory. A 2013 request for proposals, which was later revised, had been written in such a way that it appeared to rule out developers other than LPCiminelli. The company’s president, Louis Ciminelli, is a top Cuomo donor and, along with entities he controls, has given $90,800 since 2011. Cuomo has said he had no knowledge of or involvement in the process.
Buffalo is a long way from Bharara’s office in lower Manhattan. But as the trials of Silver and Skelos provide a high-stakes test of the prosecutor’s Albany crusade, the new investigation is a reminder of just how far Preet Bharara is willing to roam to show Andrew Cuomo what he thinks the rules of state government should be.
Bharara is clearly screwing with Andrew Cuomo.
Just hours after Cuomo ran the "We're Three Amigos" video at his State of the State in January, news leaked that one of the amigos, Shelly Silver, was going to be charged with corruption the next day.
The news of Silver's case threw the capital into chaos and detracted from Cuomo's State of the State and the agenda he ha laid out therein.
The timimg of the Silver arrest was not an accident - it semeed designed to detract from Cuomo's State of the State and simultaneously link him as a co-conspirator (which Cuomo unwittingly helped with by running the Three Amigos video.)
Then just four days after the Gotham Gazette piece that Cuomo had gotten his "mojo" back came out, news leaked in the NY Post that Cuomo's Buffalo Billion was under federal investiation.
The headline was "Cuomo Administration Has A Big Headache Right Now" and it ran right over this photo:
Again, the timing seemed deliberate - the press begins to report that Cuomo's got his "mojo" back, a few days later someone leaks that there is an investigation into Cuomo's much heralded (at least by the Cuomo administration) Buffalo Billion Project, thus undercutting the "Cuomo's got his mojo back" narrative.
Bharara clearly isn't done with Cuomo and while we haven't had any charges out of the Moreland investigation into Cuomo, the recent leaks about Cuomo's Buffalo Billion Project, Cuomo's SUNY Poly man, Alain Kaloyeros, and the investigation into Cuomo's donors and just how they got contracts that seemed rigged just for them suggests there could be criminal charges that touch Cuomo at least politically.
And that's assuming that Bharara isn't squeezing those involved in the investigation so that he can work his way up the food chain or has some wiretaps with something incriminating on them that makes political or criminal problems for Cuomo himself.
There's not much Cuomo can do about Bharara, who seems to enjoy torturing him almost as much as Cuomo enjoys torturing de Blasio, so Cuomo assuages his worries by focusing his animosity and anxiety on de Blasio and making him "Priority Number #1."
Pathetic to be sure, but that's how bullies work and Cuomo's a classic bully.
Maybe that helps Cuomo sleep better at night, but that certainly isn't going to make Preet go away.
Maybe this all ends well for Cuomo, maybe Preet never brings any more charges in the investigation into the Moreland shutdown, maybe he finds nothing in the Buffalo Billion Project investigation.
But given what's happened so far with Silver and Skelos and the kinds of investigations Bharara has engaged in and the kinds of charges he's brought against them, I wouldn't bet too much of the mortgage on that.