As we recently discussed, there’s a bit of a tug of war going on inside New York’s state government, as Governor Andrew Cuomo dodges around to stay out of the corruption investigation net which has already swept up former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. While there is no word as to whether or not Silver will roll for the prosecutors and give up the governor, the media has gotten essentially nothing from the big guy. When asked to comment, he has repeatedly given one version or another of the same response.
“As I believe the U.S. attorney has made it clear that ongoing public dialogue is not helpful to his investigation,” Cuomo said in July, “we will have no additional comment on the matter.”
But now, Preet Bharara, New York’s top federal prosecutor who is pursuing the case, has spoken up in a series of interviews and says that he never told Cuomo any such thing.
In an MSNBC interview airing Tuesday, Bharara says Cuomo’s assertion that he cannot discuss the ongoing investigation is simply not true. “People are able to exercise their public role in the way that they see fit,” Bharara says. “I don’t think I, or anyone else, has ever said that any particular person shouldn’t be talking about how he or she made decisions publicly,” he added…
Asked directly about that statement, Bharara says it is not true that the governor is restricted from commenting. “I don’t think that’s true because I’ve heard comments that have been attributed to the governor,” Bharara told MSNBC. “So, you know, how he wants to interpret what he can and cannot say is up to him.”
But, as many Albany reporters have already been speculating, is Mr. Bharara looking at wrongdoing by others in the Democrat leadership or even the Governor himself? He wouldn’t come right out and say that exactly, but he’s clearly adopting the attitude of somebody who isn’t particularly frightened of the state’s political machine or the chief executive. In fact, he implies something a bit more broadly when he tells reporters that his business is finding government corruption, and business is good.
Bharara also declined to address reports that he is investigating New York Majority Leader Dean Skelos. “I’m not gonna get into investigations that we may be doing at the moment and who we’re investigating,” he says. “But as I’ve said before – and will say again here to you – we have a number of investigations going on. And we’ve had them for a long time.” Bharara added, “It doesn’t seem like business will be abating any time soon in the public corruption department.”
I watched part of the interviews with Bharara this morning and he wouldn’t say yes or no as to who else might be under investigation, but he also said that multiple investigations are underway and more arrests could be in the offing. As to the one deal which was immediately alleged to have taken place between Silver and Cuomo – the agreement to disband the corruption commission in exchange for passing campaign finance reform – the prosecutor said that there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that arrangement. That’s about as far from a definitive statement as you can get, but the way he said it certainly made it sound like it could turn into something wrong without a lot more leverage being applied.
Some of the Albany beat reporters have also been hinting around that there has been a stream of politicos visiting with the prosecutor, and not all of them were forced to do so by a summons. The rats seem to be fleeing the ship at this point, and some of Silver’s long oppressed enemies – likely no fans of the Governor either – are probably relishing the opportunity to come out of the shadows and “help” with this important investigation. The national media has already begun taking note of the story, so I suspect that this is heading towards something bigger than just Shelly Silver going down. If the dominoes are starting to fall, they may go all the way up the line.
On a completely unrelated side note, I would like to encourage Governor Cuomo to shrug all this off and challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democrat nomination next year. I think you’d be the perfect candidate.