We’ve discussed U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara here many times in the past. His pursuit of government corruption wherever it may be found and the prosecution of those who betray the trust of the public has become legendary. That’s why, when he told reporters earlier this year that he detected an “air of corruption” in the executive branch of New York’s state government people were rightly looking over their shoulders. Now his work in that area is moving into high gear. Bharara has made his case to a grand jury and been given the green light to take eight top aides and associates of Governor Andrew Cuomo to trial on charges of corruption. (New York Observer)
An array of figures from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s inner circle—including a confidante so close the governor called him “my father’s third son”—got slapped with a sweeping 14-count federal indictment today, which alleges they colluded in a pair of schemes to solicit bribes for state assistance and to rig economic development contracts for companies that gave to Cuomo’s campaigns.
A grand jury gave crusading U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara the go-ahead to prosecute his case against Joseph Percoco, the governor’s former campaign manager, deputy executive secretary, political fixer and body man, on charges he solicited bribes and a “low-show job” for his wife from two major Cuomo contributors. In return, the federal government alleges Percoco pressured executive agencies and entities to offer assistance and loosen regulations for the companies’ operations in New York State—and lied about the arrangement on disclosure forms.
There are more shady deals described in these charges than you can shake a stick at, but one of the biggest is Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” initiative, which Bharara described as little more than, “a cash cow for friends of the administration” who funneled money into the governor’s campaign war chest. Cuomo himself has somehow managed to avoid indictment thus far and still insists that he was utterly oblivious to any nefarious dealings allegedly going on in his administration. Pull the other one, Governor. It’s got bells on it.
As a side note, I find it interesting that when aides to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are charged or convicted on something related to Bridgegate it consumes the news cycle for days on end. When the same thing happens to Andrew Cuomo it’s apparently a “local news story.” Funny how that works, eh?
The Hillary Clinton Connection
There’s one last thing to consider which you’re going to want to keep your eye on. This investigation has been going on for well over a year without making very many headlines. That’s not how Bharara operates. His rare media statements are short and businesslike. But he promised action on this and after the long and challenging investigation was complete he delivered. Remember that Preet owes no loyalty to either party and is absolutely relentless. When he detected corruption in the state legislature in 2014, he launched a lengthy investigation which resulted in former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver – arguably the most powerful Democrat in the state – being sent to prison. He followed that up by sending the state’s senior Republican to keep him company behind bars.
Bharara is the guy who is currently going after Anthony Weiner… an investigation which produced all sorts of interesting information. And in August he announced that he was investigating corruption at the New York offices of the Clinton Foundation.
As I said at the time, this isn’t the sort of investigation which was going to be wrapped up in a matter of weeks. These things take time. The FBI may have thrown in the towel on going after Hillary Clinton. Even Donald Trump may be making noises about not needing to “lock her up.” But out there in New York City Preet Bharara is still grinding away at his job. And if he has the Clintons in his sights, don’t expect him to simply go away because the election is over. Preet Bharara is the honey badger of corruption investigations and he is not afraid to do his job.