Preet’s Embarrassment Campaign?
ICYMI, this was Item I from today’s Morning Memo:
There’s some fascinating stuff at the very bottom of today’s Wall Street Journal story on the latest in the Moreland mess, which offers some insight into what US Attorney Preet Bharara hopes to get out of this quest.
Consider the following:
“Mr. Bharara’s probe into the actions of the Cuomo administration with respect to interfering with the commission, dissolving it and the aftermath of that decision is now a top focus of prosecutors, according to people familiar with the probe.
“While it is unclear whether he could make a criminal case on that front, Mr. Bharara views the enterprise as a victory even if it doesn’t ultimately lead to charges against anyone in the administration, according to a person briefed on the investigation.”
“If his office brings one case that the Moreland Commission failed to refer for prosecution, the investigation will be worth it, the person said.”
There has been considerable speculation about what – if anything – Bharara might actually charge the governor, or anyone connected to him, with in connection with the administration’s interference with the now-defunct commission.
The governor’s efforts after the New York Times story to solicit supportive statements from former commission members while Bharara’s investigation was ongoing gave the US attorney some fuel. Bharara responded by warning the governor – in a letter that quickly leaked – against witness tampering and obstruction of justice.
But even those possible charges seem a little weak when you consider the enormity of the fallout if the US attorney actually charged a top gubernatorial aide, or, worse yet, the governor himself – especially this close to the fall elections.
Now, if the person “briefed” on Bharara’s investigation and sharing insights with the WSJ is to be believed, it appears the US attorney will be satisfied with merely having embarrassed the governor – especially if his office manages to bring some charges against a lawmaker or two that the commission declined to pursue, perhaps, as this story suggests, at the administration’s request.
This a rather dangerous and high-stakes game that Bharara is pursuing, as New York magazine’s Chris Smith pointed out this week.
“Given the governor’s muscular public-relations efforts, Bharara has little choice but to push back hard in public,” Smith wrote.
“Maybe the publicity-friendly strategy is also because Bharara suspects he won’t have the facts to send anyone to jail – and that to truly change the culture of state government, punishment is less effective than embarrassment, anyway.”
“But by so overtly confronting Andrew Cuomo, Preet Bharara is taking a risk, too: He has raised expectations that he’s going to deliver something more than another exposé of the Albany sausage-making machinery.”
And not only that, but Bharara has undoubtedly earned himself a very powerful enemy for a very long time.
Despite Moreland and its fallout (at least what we’ve seen to date) no one (except maybe Rob Astorino and Zephyr Teachout) really believes Cuomo is in danger of losing his re-election bid this fall.
So, the governor will return to office to deal with the Legislature in a brave new, post-Moreland world, which – thanks to Bharara – seems to have reduced the governor’s so-called “fear factor” somewhat and emboldened lawmakers just a tad.
Cuomo can’t possibly be happy about that. And if he’s looking for someone to blame, he won’t have to look much further than Lower Manhattan. Now, you could argue that Cuomo can’t do anything to hurt Bharara, who is a presidential appointee. And that is part of the reason why the US attorney is engaged in this crusade.
But who knows what Bharara’s next move will be? The political life is long and filled with many acts, downfalls and comebacks.
Perhaps no one is more aware of that fact than Cuomo himself.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Liz Benjamin on August 8, 2014 at 1:13 pm, and is filed under Andrew Cuomo, Preet Bharara, Uncategorized. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|