Exclusive: Cuomo intervened in BNP deal to get $1 billion more for NY state fund
(Reuters) - Only days before U.S. authorities reached a landmark $8.97 billion settlement with BNP Paribas over the bank’s dealings with countries subject to U.S. sanctions, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo intervened to ensure the state government got a much bigger share of the proceeds, according to three people familiar with the situation.
One of these people said Cuomo called Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan District Attorney, on June 27 to seek a big chunk of the $2.2 billion that was going to be available to Vance to tap for law enforcement projects.
Vance eventually agreed that $1.05 billion of the $2.2 billion would go into the state’s coffers because otherwise the whole deal could be jeopardized, this person said. The settlement was announced on Monday, June 30, after last-minute negotiations over the preceding weekend.
The state’s general fund was already set to receive $2.24 billion from a state regulator’s piece of the settlement, and the eleventh-hour deal pushed the state’s take up to $3.29 billion. That change was contained in a side agreement signed by Vance on June 29, and a lawyer for Cuomo on June 30.
After a week of getting beaten up on the airwaves (including The Daily Show and Morning Joe), in the papers (especially on the editorial pages) and on the Internet over the NY Times expose on Moreland, Andrew Cuomo finally surfaced on Monday in Buffalo to push back against the narrative that he had manipulated the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption.
Behind the scenes he engineered four similar statements backing him from Moreland Commissioners, including one by co-chair William Fitzpatrick (someone Cuomo elevated yesterday to "senior co-chair," though he was never called that before.)
Cuomo made another appearance yesterday, this time on Long Island, doing governor's stuff and dismissing efforts by his GOP opponent to make a big deal over Moreland as "entertaining."
Then came the BNP Paribas leak to Reuters that went up as a story last night, one that reflected well on Cuomo (and was meant to reflect well on Cuomo.)
You can see the strategy here - Cuomo, behind the scenes, calling Moreland Commissioners to solicit support and suggest what they should put in press statements that he wanted released on the same day he re-emerged from hiding over the Moreland mess, then pointing to those statements as proof positive that he hadn't meddled with the commission.
Then, to put an exclamation point on the whole thing, he has the BNP Paribas story, the one that makes him look good, leaked to Reuters, a way to try and counter the negative coverage he's been getting on The Daily Show and especially Morning Joe.
Just Andrew Cuomo being Andrew Cuomo, exerting influence, pulling strings, controlling things behind the scenes - in short, Cuomo back in the saddle, turning the corner on the Moreland story.
And then Preet Bahrara says not so fast and this story appears in the Times right around midnight:
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.
So much for Sheriff Andy, back in the saddle, turning the corner on the Meddling in Moreland scandal.
In addition, Bharara very visibly lunched with State Attorney General Eric Scheniderman earlier in the week in a place they were sure to be seen, another message aimed at Cuomo from the US Attorney's office - Scheiderman is not a target of any investigation, but he may be helping out with our investigation into Moreland meddling.
Jimmy Vielkind tweeted the following this morning about Preet's warning to Cuomo:
In a letter, Preet Bharara warns Andrew Cuomo about being Andrew Cuomo http://t.co/AuPQJIFnuk
— Jimmy Vielkind (@JimmyVielkind) July 31, 2014
Indeed, Cuomo is just doing here what he has done on every other issue/crisis - stage-managing it to go the way he wants.
The difference here is, Preet Bharara is having none of it.
Here was the coverage Cuomo got this morning on Morning Joe:
As the questions build over Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his staff’s involvement in the Moreland Commission corruption-busting panel, the flap has increasingly picked up national media.
On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” this morning, the panelists warned about the increasing damage it could cause Cuomo after U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a letter warned the administration to not meddle with commission members who could be witnesses.
“There’s a serious cloud hanging over the governor’s mansion,” Ari Melber, a MSNBC co-host.
BNP Paribas/Cuomo back in control story?
What BNP Paribas/Cuomo back in control story?
So much for turning the corner on the Moreland mess.