Bharara The Cop
Last year During the annual LCA Show in Albany, where journalists dress up in costumes and sing songs from the 1950’s ( no, I’m not kidding ), I had the pleasure of playing U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. In the agonizing backstage debate over what outfit I should wear some suggested I depict Bharara as the Grim Reaper complete with black hood and sickle. 2013, let’s remember, was Bharara’s big year. There were a rash of corruption arrests involving public officials both in New York and Albany, so the idea behind the costume was that Bharara is coming for you, and one can never hide from the Reaper.
But I had a different idea. I thought Bharara should be depicted as Canadian Mountie Dudley Do-Right. “Rocky and Bullwinkle” was a little before my time, but I had caught reruns of the cartoons growing up. And let’s not forget the embarrassing attempt at a revival with that movie from 2000 starring Jason Alexander, Rene Russo and Robert De Niro. And to think, Robert De Niro had just done “Meet the Parents,” arguably his last good movie. Oh, wait…I forgot about “New Year’s Eve,” My bad.
Anyway, I think the point is that Bharara has fashioned himself more like the steady cop among all of these run amok politicians. Therefore it was particularly notable when Bharara not only scolded Cuomo in the Times, but then went on Brian Lehrer’s show to rub it in. Cuomo has also triangulated himself as the adult in the room among New York’s elected’s, and it’s rare for a Democrat ( or in this case a Democratic appointee ) to call him out on anything in public or on the record. So, what’s going on here? Couple of theories from insiders…one is that some of Moreland’s Commisioner’s felt blindsided by the decision to shut down their work after just nine months and before a final report could be issued so they tipped off Bharara in the hopes that whatever they had uncovered would be pursued further. No one has any doubt Bharara will look into some of these open story lines including but not limited to the outside income of lawmakers. After all, Bharara kinda needs to come up with *something* now that he has made a public display of saying the investigations must continue.
Another theory is that Bharara was annoyed by reports that the Cuomo Administration interfered with the independence of the commission. Knowing he couldn’t quite prove it, he did the next best thing which was criticize the Governor for bailing out early. Bharara told Lehrer,
The plain facts are it was disbanded before its time. Nine months may be the proper gestational period for a child, but in our experience it is not the amount of time necessary for a public corruption prosecution to mature.
Say what you will, but that sounds like a shot at the Governor. Cuomo defended his actions to Tom Kaplan in Rochester yesterday, saying,
It was a temporary commission. I was not creating a perpetual bureaucracy.
That’s true. The Moreland Commission was put together specifically to pressure lawmakers into passing the Governor’s anti-corruption package known as the Public Trust Act. Cuomo can credibly claim that he accomplished precisely that. But, if there is real corruption out there, a probe should probably not end because the Governor gets his way. At least that seems to be what Bharara the Cop thinks.
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