On Monday, Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that his office, which had been investigating Governor Andrew Cuomo’s abrupt disbandment of the anticorruption Moreland Commission, in March 2014, would not bring criminal charges against the governor.
“After a thorough investigation of interference with the operation of the Moreland Commission and its premature closing, this Office has concluded that, absent any additional proof that may develop, there is insufficient evidence to prove a federal crime,” Bharara said in a statement. “We continue to have active investigations related to substantive inquiries that were being conducted by the Moreland Commission at the time of its closure.”
The statement didn’t name names, but Bharara’s office was known to have been investigating Cuomo over his decision to shutter the panel—which he had appointed himself—less than nine months into its intended 18-month lifespan ostensibly as part of budget negotiations. Even before shutting it down, Cuomo was accused of meddling in its work and blocking subpoenas, despite having claimed, a month into its existence, “Anything they want to look at, they can look at—me, the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the comptroller, any senator, any assemblyman.”
Still, even if Cuomo isn’t going to be indicted over closing the commission, he could still be indicted as a result of investigations that grow out of things the commission found before it was closed. From Politico New York:
The Cuomo administration is still in Bharara’s crosshairs over contracts it let to build a solar panel factory as part of the Buffalo Billion, a major Cuomo initiative. Prosecutors have subpoenaed contractors and campaign donors to examine how work was awarded. Several legislators who were scrutinized by the U.S. attorney could still find themselves facing criminal charges. Bharara famously told Albany to “stay tuned,” and said in his statement that prosecutors are still pursuing other leads that came from the Moreland Commission.
Last year, Bharara’s office indicted two of the other three so-called Men in a Room of the New York State Legislature on corruption charges: former Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. Both were found guilty. Both convictions grew out of leads first investigated by the Moreland Commission, which the U.S. Attorney had subpoenaed after its closure.
In a statement, the governor’s lawyer, Elkan Abramowitz, said, “We were always confident there was no illegality here, and we appreciate the U.S. Attorney clarifying this for the public record.”