U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced Monday that his office has not found sufficient evidence to prove a federal crime was committed in connection with interference with and the closing of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption.
“After a thorough investigation of interference with the operation of the Moreland Commission and its premature closing, this Office has concluded that, absent any additional proof that may develop, there is insufficient evidence to prove a federal crime,” Bharara said in a statement. “We continue to have active investigations related to substantive inquiries that were being conducted by the Moreland Commission at the time of its closure.”
“We were always confident there was no illegality here, and we appreciate the US Attorney clarifying this for the public record,” said Elkan Abramowitz, the attorney who has represented the governor’s office amid Bharara’s probe.
Two investigations continue.
The first is, as the US attorney said in the statement, they "continue to have active investigations related to substantive inquiries that were being conducted by the Moreland Commission at the time of its closure.”
The second is into the Buffalo Billion Project - Cuomo's donors and state entities involved in the bidding process were subpoenaed in that investigation.
But Cuomo walks for the Moreland tampering - no "federal" laws were broken.
Rob Astorino, Cuomo's 2014 opponent, has called for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate the case, pointing out that while federal laws may not have been broken in the shutdown, state laws may have been.
But the chances of that happening are slim to none.
The announcement today, coming two days before Cuomo's state of the state/budget address, cetainly should provide some tail winds to Cuomo as he starts his 2016 legislative push.
As Politico NY put it:
The announcement, coming on the heels of a high-profile visit to discuss corruption issues with Kentucky lawmakers and the recent convictions of two of the state’s top legislative leaders, came seemingly without warning from Bharara’s office. The news effectively blows away a cloud of suspicion hanging over the state Capitol since Bharara’s office announced it was investigating the shutdown of the Moreland Commission in July, 2014.
I always thought the Buffalo Billion Project investigation was the bigger problem for the Cuomo administration, but while today's announcement does not relate in any way to that investigation, it does give you pause for what Bharara might (or might not) have.
My gut tells me, if Preet's announcing this Moreland thing now, two days before the state of the state/budget address, he's probably not nailing the governor on that either. Maybe the SUNY Poly guy, but probably not Cuomo.
I hope my gut is wrong.
But the announcement today on the Moreland investigation, coming when it did, doesn't make me hopeful.
UPDATE - 4:35 PM: The NY Times adds the following to the end of their piece about the Bharara announcement:
Federal prosecutors are also investigating one of Mr. Cuomo’s signature upstate programs aimed at revitalizing Buffalo’s economy. That investigation, led by Mr. Bharara, has been looking at how these government-funded projects were awarded, according to a subpoena reviewed by The New York Times. It is also looking at whether state elected officials played a role in choosing who would benefit from the infusion of government funds.The statement on Monday did not mention the Buffalo investigation.
I'm pretty sure Bharara's got something in the Buffalo investigation (i.e., Alain Kaloyeros), but does it rise as high as Cuomo?
As I wrote above, today's announcement from Bharara, just kinda dropped into the news, doesn't make me hopeful that he does.
But I've been wrong about politics plenty of times before and I know I'll be wrong again.
Here's hoping this is one of them.