It’s a “devastating turning point” and possibly the “beginning of the end” of Gov. Cuomo’s 30-plus-year political career.
That’s the profound impact of US Attorney Preet Bharara’s corruption probe of Cuomo’s longtime friend and top aide Joe Percoco — who was tighter with the governor than even members of his own family, top state Democrats told The Post.
“Joe was even closer to Cuomo than [girlfriend] Sandra Lee, closer than his sisters and even his brother Chris. Joe was always there with him, for God’s sake,’’ said a prominent Democrat who has known Cuomo for years.
In a move widely seen as a pre-emptive effort to put his own “spin’’ on the federal probe, Cuomo announced late Friday that an investigation was being launched into “undisclosed conflicts of interest by some individuals which may have deceived state employees’’ involved in economic development programs.
The announcement, which came as Bharara’s probe of Percoco became public, stunned many close to Cuomo because it appeared that the governor was, as a Cuomo administration source put it, “just throwing Joe under the bus, which seemed incredible to everyone and suggested how serious all of this is.’’
Administration insiders quickly began asking if Percoco — whose career and relationship with the governor goes back to the days of Gov. Mario Cuomo — could have, as investigators suspect, illegally pocketed some $150,000 from contractors without Cuomo knowing about it.
“Do you think Joe would have done something like this without checking with Andrew and letting him know what was happening?’’ asked a longtime Cuomo associate.
“I find that impossible to believe,’’ the source continued.
I do too - nobody micromanages more than Cuomo, so it's hard to believe that he didn't know about the Buffalo Billion malfeasance and it's hard to believe that he didn't know about Percoco's double dealing.
In addition, Erica Orden at the Wall Street Journal has reported that Percoco continued to act in an official role for Cuomo even though he was no longer working for him and had taken a job working for Madison Square Garden Co.
This official role had Percoco doing some cajoling and arm-twisting during the budget negotiations in March as well as stage managing some Cuomo events including his State of the State Address in January.
Just what was Percoco doing, working for MSG and Governor Cuomo at the same time?
I dunno, but I bet Joe does - and maybe Preet will soon too:
Another huge question hovering over the governor is whether Percoco, privy for years to the intimate workings of the Cuomo administration, might have information that would be of interest to Bharara — which he might be willing to trade for leniency.
In the end, here's how it all could shake out:
“This is a devastating turning point for Andrew that could be the beginning of the end’’ of his career, said a Democrat who once counted himself among Cuomo’s strongest supporters.
Given the number of things Cuomo's on the hook for here - Buffalo Billion malfeasance, corruption by his top aide Percoco and by another former staffer, Todd Howe, the apparent conflict of interest of Percoco working for MSG and Cuomo simultaneously, and questions around what Percoco might be willing to do for a lighter sentence - I would say there really is potential for this to be the end of Cuomo's career.
That may seem like hyperbole, but when you look at the confluence of events and stories we've seen on Cuomo and the people around him since Friday, he's got serious, serious trouble and it's difficult to see how he bullshits his way out of it the way he has in the past.
Cuomo wants to run for president in the future, he wants to be considered for a prime slot speaking at this year's Democratic National Convention.
Given the mess he's in now, I would be surprised he gets the latter, let alone the former.