Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Is Cuomo Next On The List For Criminal Charges?

Mike Vilensky has a piece in the Wall Street Journal on how U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Preet Bharara is shaking up Albany politics by scoring criminal convictions against New York power brokers like former Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver and former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

I found the part about where Bharara goes post-Silver and Skelos convictions most interesting:

Last year, Mr. Bharara’s office was examining the role of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his aides in shutting down a state anticorruption commission, The Wall Street Journal has previously reported. Mr. Bharara’s office interviewed several of Mr. Cuomo’s top aides in connection with that probe, but it hasn’t charged anyone with wrongdoing.

Mr. Cuomo, who was previously the state’s attorney general, has said his administration is cooperating with the inquiry and has defended his decision to disband what was known as the Moreland Commission.

A spokesman for Mr. Bharara declined to discuss the status of that investigation or another probe examining the bidding process for an upstate development project championed by the governor. Mr. Cuomo said in September he didn’t know anything about the Buffalo probe, and his office had no further comment Friday.

Reacting to the conviction of Mr. Skelos, the governor said in a prepared statement on Friday: “There can be no tolerance for those who use, and seek to use, public service for private gain.”

Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University, said he is confident Mr. Bharara will “go where the evidence leads, without fear or favor.”

Cuomo's office may have had no official comment about the Buffalo Billion probe when the Wall Street Journal inquired about it on Friday, but an unnamed source in the administration with a penchant for asking rhetorical questions sure did have a lot to say to the Buffalo News last week in defense of the project and the bidding process around it.

That source - an unnamed "state official" - gave an "extended interview" to the Buffalo News along with providing "dozens of documents" in defense of how the Buffalo Billion Project bids were handled and doled out.

The bids were won by two of Cuomo's donors in a process that looked like it was rigged for those very outcomes.

We haven't heard much about the Buffalo Billion Project probe since the initial slate of leaks in September that Bharara's office had launched an investigation into the project and had subpoenaed entities involved - including at least one Cuomo donor and two of the state entities that handled much of the process, SUNY Poly and the Empire State Development Corporation.

That some unnamed "state official" felt the need to give an "extended interview" and provide "dozens of documents" to the Buffalo News in defense of the project last week suggests to me that Governor Cuomo is nervous about where that investigation is going.

He may be even more nervous after Preet Bharara issued his first-ever tweet just as Cuomo was announcing his Buffalo Billion Project Part Deux awards for other parts of the state on Thursday:

"Stay tuned..." is an interesting tweet to issue considering those were the very words Bharara used back in January at the Silver criminal charges announcement when he was asked if any other Albany pols were in his sights.

That Bharara chose to issue that first-ever tweet at the exact moment Governor Cuomo was having a vaunted announcement for his Buffalo Billion Project Part Deux development program was even more interesting, since Bharara is investigating Cuomo's Buffalo Billion Project and has sent out subpoenas to state entities and Cuomo donors involved in the process.

There's been a lot of skepticism from readers of the blog about whether Bharara is going after Cuomo or not, which I understand. 

To have a U.S. attorney take down a sitting governor - it's not often done (except in Illinois, of course.)

That said, I've gotten more optimistic since September that this is Bharara's end game. 

The leaks about the Buffalo Billion investigation were especially important in shaping my thinking on this.

Preet leaks as a way to set the stage for eventual criminal charges. He did it with Silver (leaking news of a federal investigation into the speaker one month before the criminal charges were filed in January), and he did it with Skelos (leaking first in January, then again in May right before the criminal charges were levied against Skelos.)

If the pattern is followed, the leaks about subpoenas going out to Cuomo donors didn't just drop out of the sky - they came from Bharara's office and were a shot across the bow, aimed at The Good Ship Cuomo. 

Cuomo heard the shot, you can be sure, because he got very defensive (saying something like "This is the way business has been done for over 100 years in this state...", which I believe was also Shelly Silver's unsuccessful defense against the criminal charges he was just convicted on) and has gotten even more defensive since (otherwise why have an unnamed "state official" who sounded an awful lot like Cuomo himself give an "extended interview" along with "dozens of documents" to the Buffalo News in attempt to defend the Buffalo Billion Project?)

Now whether this all ends with criminal charges against Cuomo, that's hard to say.

But one thing is pretty clear to me from all the wrangling between Cuomo and Bharara since September:

Bharara's looking into Cuomo very, very closely and Cuomo knows it and fears it.

And Cuomo should fear it.

There's the Buffalo Billion Project probe, there's the investigation into Cuomo's shutdown of the Moreland Commission (which takes on new resonance now that the two guys who were part of the shutdown deal are both convicted of corruption) and there may indeed be some stuff we are totally unaware that is being looked into as well.

Couple those investigations with the feeling you get that Bharara really likes sticking it to Cuomo and if I were Sheriff Andy, I'd be worried too, especially since Bharara got a conviction on Silver without proving an explicit quid pro quo between Shelly and his marks.


  1. Shoild he? Yes!!! Does he probably have enough? Of course!!!!!
    Will he?? Hmmmm. I'm thinking no. He could have had him by now therefore all three amigos. He chose not to.

    1. I don't think it would have been a smart strategy to charge all three at once, especially with the Silver case being a bit of a bank shot. Doesn't mean that Cuomo's going to get charged now - just that I don't think that because he hasn't charged him already means anything in the grand scheme.

  2. Wipe hard drives of old emails. Veto FOIL. Decommission investigations. Put Common Core on hold. It's coming and he knows it.

    1. The "state official" who defended the Buffalo Billion bidding process to the Buffalo News last week sure seemed to know something.

  3. I think Preet will nail El Cuomo if there's enough evidence. Skeolos and his son sound like idiots on those wiretaps. Cuomo is NOT an idiot in those matters. Also, I'm sure the D.A. is attempting to shake as many trees for guilty informants. Again, Cuomo has been around a long time, and wouldnt make the mistakes Skelos did. I dont see them getting Cuomo on stealing for himself, but in probably "stretching" the law in awarding govt contracts. But awarding Murdoch's company mucho taxpayers money after receving a 700K book deal from Murdoch previously isnt corruption, I don't know what is. And of course, all of Murdochs conflict of interest issues in t

    he education game with Cuomo is silently swept under the rug by the Mainstream Media Complex. How Cuomo operates is clear to see, but this behavior is condoned by The Oligarchy. I dont see Cuomo living any riskier than what's obvious to the eye...which is the current Facism.

  4. We won't know until the trigger is pulled. The Feds are building a case. They will keep building it until they only have leads left that look like they are only going to lead to issues that are insignificant in comparison to or distracting from the charges they have already built. They might already have enough to charge the governor, but are still pursuing leads on bigger charges or more damning evidence on existing charges. The investigation of the governor could have implicated other actors, and they might want to complete those investigations first, lest they be compromised by information revealed in the indictment.

    It's also possible that Andy never took a dime for himself and is safe from prosecution on a technicality because he only ever wanted money for his perpetual campaign in the first place. And in that case, maybe the plan is death by a thousand cuts as the picture of business in Albany is laid bare by the trials of smaller fish, one after another, each impeaching the governor's credibility with anyone willing to read between the lines.

  5. It might create some of the great difference but indeed there is a need to occupy such kind of the evident principles which have proven to be so in this regard.