US Attorney to Cuomo: Witness tampering and obstruction are still illegal, you know

posted at 3:21 pm on July 31, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

The gloves have come off in New York, where Andrew Cuomo’s easy cruise to re-election as governor of New York has hit a major detour. Last week, the New York Times exposed Cuomo’s attempts to interfere with an anti-corruption commission he had established in August 2013, and then abruptly shut down in March. US Attorney Preet Bharara had cooperated with the Moreland Commission rather than press new investigations out of his own office, but got suspicious about Cuomo’s actions and took over the panel’s files. This led to the discovery that Cuomo’s office had demanded the retraction of subpoenas and the end to probes of people in Cuomo’s administration.

After the NYT exposé, several figures in Cuomo’s circle have publicly come out to criticize the Bharara probe, and yesterday the US Attorney’s office issued its response — a warning that Cuomo and his aides had better refrain from tampering with witnesses and obstruction of justice.

Oh, yeah … it’s on (via Jim Geraghty):

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. …

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.”

We often hear presidents and governors say that they have to wait for an investigation to complete its work before offering comment, other than just anodyne expressions of innocence. This demonstrates the wisdom of that policy. This particular example is almost risibly ironic, since it appears that Cuomo and his team did exactly what got them into trouble in the first place — leaned on the commissioners to keep the governor out of trouble. It’s practically a demonstration of how the alleged corruption and obstruction worked. And that would, indeed, risk adding more counts to any indictment that may arise in the future.

Plus, by going public, Cuomo has given Bharara another opportunity to respond in kind. For a man who wants to win another term in office in just three months, provoking prosecutors into reminding the public of suspicions of corruption seems like a rather curious strategy.

Republicans may want Cuomo gone for obvious reasons; they want to win control of the governor’s office, and are hoping that Rob Astorino could knock off Cuomo. But on the Left, rising anger over Cuomo’s battles with Bill DeBlasio in New York City and the treatment given to progressive challenger Zephyr Teachout has the bloc already unhappy with the incumbent. Ryan Cooper says it’s time for Democrats to dump Cuomo as well:

Cuomo has consistently obstructed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s agenda. Six months in, the de Blasio mayoralty looks to be off to a decent start. But the truth is that the mayor of New York simply doesn’t have that much power to institute major policy in the face of opposition from Albany, and getting Cuomo to go along has been like pulling teeth. Instead of raising taxes on the rich, Cuomo wants to cut them. He blocked rental subsidies for the homeless. Worst of all is Cuomo’s atrocious urban policy, particularly on public transportation, whose coffers he wants to raid to alleviate costs for drivers. De Blasio seems to get that New York City is absolutely dependent on its subways and buses, but like most rich people Cuomo is a driving partisan to the bone.

Third is corruption. Obviously, the Times investigation is the major mark against him here, though his campaign has also admitted to rounding up fake protesters to harass Zephyr Teachout while she is campaigning.

The bottom line is that Andrew Cuomo is the worst kind of backstabbing, triangulating “centrist” in the wretched No Labels mold. Better for liberals to beat him now, or at least make his victory as unimpressive as possible, before we have to beat him in a presidential primary down the line.

The presidential aspirations have already dissipated, and now it’s a question as to whether Cuomo can cross the finish line. The problem with Cooper’s advice is that relatively few outside of New York City want a more progressive governor than Cuomo, and the two other options Cooper mentions will have a very difficult time getting traction — especially Howie Hawkins running at the moment on the Green Party ticket. Teachout might do slightly better as the Democratic nominee, but much of New York is Republican, and being to the left of Cuomo is a limiting exercise in statewide races. If Cuomo falls in the September 9 primary because of corruption woes, Republicans will reap the benefit, not progressives. That’s why Democrats will almost certainly stick with Cuomo until it’s impossible to do so.


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NY & NYC politics are very odd right now – more so than usual even.

jake-the-goose on July 31, 2014 at 3:23 PM

Hey, #FoodNetwork. Time to drop Sandra Lee!!! Her BF is TOAST!!!

ladyingray on July 31, 2014 at 3:25 PM

“Laws for thee, but not for me!” – Any Democrat

Seven Percent Solution on July 31, 2014 at 3:28 PM

Eric Witholder to kill the investigation in 3…2…1…

ConstantineXI on July 31, 2014 at 3:29 PM

This guy right here is most likely, the Dem Presidential
nominee for 2016…..and he wears more makeup than
a Bronx Prostitute….

ToddPA on July 31, 2014 at 3:30 PM

Verbaldiarrhea to be along shortly to explain to us all how this is a nothingburger.

NotCoach on July 31, 2014 at 3:31 PM

and he wears more makeup than a Bronx Prostitute…. ToddPA on July 31, 2014 at 3:30 PM

Huh. How much is that, a lot?

Akzed on July 31, 2014 at 3:31 PM

This guy is a giant lefty toolbag. You should have heard his hysterical global warming chicken little speech yesterday. Because.. y’know….there has never been a hurricane before and stuff and Andy has this totally awesome weather machine. Cuomo has to go. He is an embarrassment even by libtard NY standards.

DeweyWins on July 31, 2014 at 3:35 PM

Cuomo, being a (D) means he’s automatically a liar and will game the system and / or break the law until they are caught, investigated, and forced to stop or thrown in prison.

They view witness intimidation, whistle blower retaliation and using their position of power for underhanded, nefarious means as resume enhancers.

If this wasn’t true, he wouldn’t be DimocRat in the first place.

Meople on July 31, 2014 at 3:37 PM

Does Preet Bharara plan to run for governor somewhere? Cannot imagine why Bharara would disregard Holder to go after a major Democrat pol, otherwise. I can think of several prosecutors starting their political careers that way.

No Truce With Kings on July 31, 2014 at 3:38 PM

The mafiose goomba deserves whatever sentence he ends up with for his years of corruption, as long as it’s not less than life without parole and an emptied bank account…including the offshore hidden accounts under pseudonyms.

Diluculo on July 31, 2014 at 3:42 PM

This reminds me of The Wire (I know, fiction, but…) when Lester Freamon started following the money instead of the drugs and suddenly all of the pols were scrambling to shut the investigation down.

emz35 on July 31, 2014 at 3:42 PM

NY Governor personally killing anti-corruption commissions because it started to find corruption: local story

NJ Governor’s aid closing lanes on a busy bridge: Massive Scandal!!!

forest on July 31, 2014 at 3:42 PM

Plus, by going public, Cuomo has given Bharara another opportunity to respond in kind. For a man who wants to win another term in office in just three months, provoking prosecutors into reminding the public of suspicions of corruption seems like a rather curious strategy.

Ah, the Cuomo family temper. Chris put in on display last week when he got a tad miffed at being goofed on by Jon Stewart, and Andrew was known to have his moments of mauvaise humeur while he was leading the way towards all those bad home loans while HUD Secretary under Clinton. He’ll probably weather this one on Nov. 4, but if the allegations keep coming through The New York Times and the U.S. Attorney is an Obama apointee, it will be hard for area liberals to declare the probe just another piece of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.

jon1979 on July 31, 2014 at 3:43 PM

This guy is a giant lefty toolbag. You should have heard his hysterical global warming chicken little speech yesterday. Because.. y’know….there has never been a hurricane before and stuff and Andy has this totally awesome weather machine. Cuomo has to go. He is an embarrassment even by libtard NY standards.

DeweyWins on July 31, 2014 at 3:35 PM

66 degrees F here in the NC mountains… at the end of July.

While not unheard of, is rare enough.

Yeah… HAS to be AGW. /

Turtle317 on July 31, 2014 at 3:44 PM

Silly wabbit – the laws don’t apply to Dems…..

dentarthurdent on July 31, 2014 at 3:45 PM

Leon Trotsky will be the Dem’s next candidate for Guv…Oh, wait, he’s dead. Billary will suffice.

vnvet on July 31, 2014 at 3:45 PM

Huh. How much is that, a lot?

Akzed on July 31, 2014 at 3:31 PM

You need a trowel to remove it.

ToddPA on July 31, 2014 at 3:46 PM

Does Preet Bharara plan to run for governor somewhere? Cannot imagine why Bharara would disregard Holder to go after a major Democrat pol, otherwise. I can think of several prosecutors starting their political careers that way.

No Truce With Kings on July 31, 2014 at 3:38 PM

Maybe Holder is driving it. Both Barry/Valerie and the Clinton Crime Family have their enemies list, and there are plenty of Democratics on those lists. Check Cuomo’s history, and I’m sure you’ll find something. Start with who did he endorse in the 2008 Democratic primary?

slickwillie2001 on July 31, 2014 at 3:47 PM

Yeah… HAS to be AGW. /

Turtle317 on July 31, 2014 at 3:44 PM

Same here in Colorado front range – solid cloud cover and almost constant rain and highs in the 50s to low 60s ALL week.
This time of year it’s usually dry with highs in the 90s or even low 100s….
Must be AGW making it so dam cold, cloudy and wet that people think they woke up in Seattle….

dentarthurdent on July 31, 2014 at 3:49 PM

He’s part of the Ozark Mafia, which may or may not save him.

formwiz on July 31, 2014 at 3:49 PM

Cuomo: but, but, but . . . I’m a Democrat! The laws don’t apply to me.

Turtle317, been going to Lake Gaston for a decade, this is the coolest year yet.

rbj on July 31, 2014 at 3:56 PM

Unexpectedly?

Oxymoron on July 31, 2014 at 3:59 PM

Too bad for Cuomo he doesn’t work for the federal government where no crime ever gets punished.

earlgrey on July 31, 2014 at 4:05 PM

Maybe Holder is driving it. Both Barry/Valerie and the Clinton Crime Family have their enemies list, and there are plenty of Democratics on those lists. Check Cuomo’s history, and I’m sure you’ll find something. Start with who did he endorse in the 2008 Democratic primary?

slickwillie2001 on July 31, 2014 at 3:47 PM

That makes a lot more sense than a runaway prosecutor. Hat to think what Como must have done though.

No Truce With Kings on July 31, 2014 at 4:13 PM

He probably set it up for show and forgot to tell the members.

crankyoldlady on July 31, 2014 at 4:19 PM

Nixon is giggling in his grave.

Tard on July 31, 2014 at 4:23 PM

Form a circle, NY Democrats: It’s time for a firing squad.
Aim irresponsibly.
But first, point us to the popcorn dispenser.

orangemtl on July 31, 2014 at 4:24 PM

Cuomo has consistently obstructed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s agenda. Six months in, the de Blasio mayoralty looks to be off to a decent start. But the truth is that the mayor of New York simply doesn’t have that much power to institute major policy in the face of opposition from Albany, and getting Cuomo to go along has been like pulling teeth. Instead of raising taxes on the rich, Cuomo wants to cut them. He blocked rental subsidies for the homeless. Worst of all is Cuomo’s atrocious urban policy, particularly on public transportation, whose coffers he wants to raid to alleviate costs for drivers. De Blasio seems to get that New York City is absolutely dependent on its subways and buses, but like most rich people Cuomo is a driving partisan to the bone.

Ryan Cooper @theweek.com

.
WOW . . . . . translation :

Andrew’s not liberal enough

.
If Andrew were liberal enough, we wouldn’t even hear about this.

listens2glenn on July 31, 2014 at 4:46 PM

C’mon, really, witness tampering & obstruction of justice?
Those are only crimes when committed by a Republican.

Another Drew on July 31, 2014 at 4:53 PM

One of three things is going on here.

1, Lois investigated a few progressive groups for appearances sake. Much the same is going on here.

2, Holder owes Uncle Joe a favor and this is a kneecaping of a rival.

3, Cuomo is independently fundraising and its hurting Obama’s efforts.

meci on July 31, 2014 at 5:02 PM

As one who is conservative and lives in New York, I’m confused as to whether this is a tease – trying to get our hopes up – or a pipe dream – we could only wish something would come of this. The (R) candidate promised to repeal the SAFE Act (overbearing gun control law) which only makes this hurt more.

My thought. Nothing will come of this and the Prince of NY will still cruise through the election with double digit lead (I think it’s at 35 points or so right now).

looking4statesmen on July 31, 2014 at 5:10 PM

It takes a crooked man to disarm his fellow citizens.

CurtZHP on July 31, 2014 at 5:57 PM

I never had any doubt that obstruction of justice and witness tampering were felonies, not to mention fundamentally illegal. I might add fraud, conspiracy and attempt. But let’s leave those aside — for now. Now what should we do to prosecute these people? Is Bharara enough? By god, I suspect he is. But is he not, I want to crush Cuomo. I want to bury him somewhere in upstate New York like a rotting salmon. Do you think I’m too harsh? Have you ever studied the mores of Albany? Get back to me when you have a properly sourced memorandum and legal brief. Thanks. Love, Bye.

Esaus Message on July 31, 2014 at 6:03 PM

While the writer suggests much of NY is Republican, those parts of the state have a small population and really have little influence on the governor’s race. Look at how the upstate Buffalo native that ran against Cuomo last time did (he got smashed). In some respects Cuomo was actually about as good as the GOP could hope to get in sapphire deep blue NY as he was putting some reins on spending, taxes and De Blasio’s destructive agenda. He even sided with the GOP Senators to bring some much needed discipline to the NY Senate. However, he agreed to throw the GOP Senators under the bus in exchange for an endorsement he did not really need. Thus he made an enemy of a rather moderate GOP NY Senate leadership that conceivably could be in the majority again if lighting strikes this Fall.

For me, Cuomo’s court victory as HUD Secretary for forcing banks to make risky mortgage loans is the greatest strike against him. It was disastrous policy engaged in for purely partisan political profit. His decision (again for political profit to gin up donations from the Green community) to shut down the Indian Point nuclear power plants with absolutely no alternative source of reasonably priced reliable power is another disqualifier.

KW64 on July 31, 2014 at 6:07 PM

If it was Cuomo (R)… he’d already be in prison.

mankai on July 31, 2014 at 6:11 PM

I think they’re trying to clear the decks for Fauxcahontis. And kneecapping a Clintonista like Cuomo is a bonus.

Iblis on July 31, 2014 at 6:14 PM

Reading some of these comments made me wonder, if Hillary does not run for Pres (or loses the race), she may run for gov. of New York. It is easier to have your own fiefdom at the state level.

Tinker on July 31, 2014 at 6:43 PM

Cuomo is one crooked Democrat. But I repeat myself.

WannabeAnglican on July 31, 2014 at 7:14 PM

As I’ve said other online forums that a very good indicator to the degree of corruption is how obsessed that government is with gun control.

In the back of their mind they are thinking “gotta disarm the peasants before they catch up to what I’m doing.”

kurtzz3 on July 31, 2014 at 7:34 PM

My governor – winner of the Chico Marx look alike contest!

Wander on July 31, 2014 at 7:36 PM

It is said by some that Daddy Mario’s Presidential aspirations were quashed by some of his “business relationships.” It looks like little Andy isn’t making any bones about some of those same relationships.

Mr. Grump on July 31, 2014 at 10:14 PM

Preet Bharara is a liberal Democrat. Is that not enough to know about this? This is Preet’s introduction to others besides New York liberals who praise his every move. Expect in the end, just like when Eric Holder is appointed to investigate Barack Obama, not a smidgen of corruption to be found.

CommieJuice on August 1, 2014 at 12:53 AM

“anodyne”? That’s the second article today I’ve read with that word. A word whose meaning I didn’t know until a few minutes ago, because I’d never seen it used.

But it works here.

unclesmrgol on August 1, 2014 at 1:45 AM