NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo could face a federal investigation over his handling of an anti-corruption committee.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has reportedly warned Cuomo about having contact with former members of the now-defunct Moreland Commission after some voiced their support for the governor’s handling of the anti-corruption panel, WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane reported.
According to a letter from prosecutors, Baharara is threatening to investigate Cuomo’s office for obstruction of justice and witness tampering, the New York Times reported. Bharara is reportedly looking into whether the Cuomo administration put pressure on commission members to make public statements defending the governor.
“There are certain conversations you can always have, but if they are trying to improperly have an impact on an investigation, well that could be an area of interest for the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” CBS News legal analyst Jack Ford told Murnane.
Sources told CBS 2 Cuomo’s recent public statements about the commission angered Bharara, such as a response to a demand from Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino for a special prosecutor to look into the possible Moreland Commission interference in which Cuomo said “That’s entertaining. Ha ha ha.”
That prompted the U.S. Attorney’s Office to send warning letters to members of the commission, letters that could also be taken as a warning to Cuomo and his staff, CBS 2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported.
“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, ” Bharara’s office wrote. ” . . . We must consider whether such actions constitute obstruction of justice or tampering with witnesses that violate federal law. ”
Gov. Cuomo’s statement following the letters made it seem he got the top prosecutor’s message about loose lips, Kramer reported.
“The New York Times published a story last week that generated a wave of news reports across the state, some with numerous inaccuracies, and we wanted to correct them,” Cuomo said. “Several members of the Commission (district attorneys and a law school dean) issued personal statements to correct the public record. These statements reiterated comments they had made over the past year.”
Cuomo also said in his statement that since the U.S. Attorney has “Made it clear that ongoing public dialogue is not helpful in this investigation” he will have no more to say about the matter, Kramer reported.
Gov. Cuomo May Face Federal Probe For Office's Involvement With Moreland Commission
Last week, Bharara said he would take over the anti-corruption work the Moreland Commission did not finish.
“We have the documents and we have the resources and the wherewithal, and I think the kind of fearlessness and independence that is required to do difficult public corruption cases,” he said.
Cuomo insisted Wednesday that his administration did not meddle with the anti-corruption commission.
During an event on Long Island, the Democratic governor fielded questions about the political storm regarding his top aide Larry Schwartz’s alleged efforts to stop the Moreland Commission from issuing subpoenas to groups linked to the governor.
Cuomo said Schwartz only offered suggestions and that the commission’s decision to ignore those suggestions shows his office didn’t interfere. He again pointed to a statement from one of the commission’s leaders saying there was no interference from the Cuomo administration.
“The real question is, was the commission independent in the decisions that it made?” Cuomo said. “And the co-chair of the committee said definitively yesterday that he made all the decisions with his co-chairs, period.”
Cuomo created the commission last year and abruptly disbanded it this spring after a budget deal that produced ethics reform, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reported.
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