Mar 27th - 11:38 am
Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney who was removed from office earlier this month by President Donald Trump’s administration, has seen his numbers rise in a Siena College poll released on Monday.
Bharara’s holds a 37 percent favorable rating among voters, while half of New York voters don’t have an opinion of him. That’s down from last June, when 67 percent of voters said they didn’t have an opinion of the prosecutor who scored high-profile corruption cases against state lawmakers, including Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
Bharara was removed from office after he refused to tender his resignation following a request from the Department of Justice that he and the remaining U.S. attorneys appointed during the Obama administration do so. The removal of U.S. attorneys is commonplace with a change in administration.
But Bharara’s removal raised eyebrows in part because of his announcement late last year that he would stay on in his post following his meeting with Trump in Manhattan.
Bharara last week announced he had taken a job at New York University Law School.
Mar 21st - 10:19 am
Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara will join New York University Law School as a scholar in residence, the school announced on Tuesday morning.
Bharara had been believed to be in line for a range of jobs, including opportunities on television and other prominent law school posts.
He had also been speculated as a possible candidate for elected office.
“I am honored to join the NYU School of Law, one of the great educational institutions in America, and I welcome the chance to contribute in such a thoughtful setting,” Bharara said in a statement. “I am thrilled for this opportunity to continue addressing the issues I so deeply care about—criminal and social justice, honest government, national security, civil rights, and corporate accountability, to name a few.”
Bharara earlier this month announced he had been fired from his post as the top prosecutor in the Southern District of New York after refusing to heed the call of the Department of Justice to step down.
Bharara gained notoriety for his prosecutions of public corruption, including high-profile cases involving state lawmakers as well as white collar crime on Wall Street.
Mar 17th - 12:28 pm
In the days after Preet Bharara says he was fired as the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, the former prosecutor’s Twitter activity has been especially barbed toward Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
First, there was Bharara’s tweet that “now I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like” — a post that made some speculate what, exactly, he meant (was he investigating President Trump? Was it the first shot in a potential gubernatorial primary?).
Then, on Friday, Bharara retweeted Ben Max of Gotham Gazette, who had linked to a story on Cuomo’s relative silence in recent weeks on ethics reform legislation.
The Twitter activity comes, too, after The New York Times reported last weekend Cuomo had warned Trump about Bharara as someone not to be trusted (which was denied by the Cuomo administration).
Bharara launched his own Twitter account this month, days before the Trump administration had the remaining federal prosecutors appointed by President Obama removed from office.
As U.S. attorney, Bharara would frequently chide Albany’s culture following high-profile corruption charges of lawmakers by his office.
Bharara had investigated Cuomo’s decision to close the Moreland Commission, ultimately deciding not to bring charges. He later charged a former top aide to Cuomo, Joe Percoco, as part of a bribery and bid-rigging case related to economic development projects.
Mar 14th - 5:45 am
From the Morning Memo:
Rep. Chris Collins, a Buffalo Republican and staunch ally of – and frequent surrogate for – President Donald Trump – said he’s had no issue with the way now-former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Preet Bharara did his job, but thinks perhaps he expected too much when it came to sticking around.
“I would say Preet Bharara’s done a pretty good job from everything I’ve seen in going after folks regardless of party affiliation, but he is a Democrat appointed by President Obama,” Collins said.
The congressional liaison for the Trump transition team similarly said he had no issue when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked Bharara to resign Friday. He said it’s common for a president to want to appoint a new team in the Justice Department, and Bharara should have honored the request – regardless of what transpired at Trump Tower last fall.
“I find it a little disturbing that Preet Bharara at the end of the day wouldn’t tender his resignation,” Collins said. “I think he was unique in that, so the president had no choice but fire him.”
As for Bharara’s indication that both Trump and Sessions had asked him to stay on, Collins believes he must have been mistaken, adding: “I wasn’t part of that conversation; obviously he misread it.”
Mar 10th - 5:33 pm
The Department of Justice on Friday asked the 46 remaining U.S. attorneys around the country appointed during the Obama administration to step down, including, reportedly, Preet Bharara.
The New York Times this evening reported Bharara is among those asked to resign, though the prosecutor himself indicated in November he could continue on his role at the Southern District.
“I said I would absolutely consider staying on,” Bharara said at the time following a visit to Trump Tower with the president-elect. “I agreed to stay on.”
That does leave some wiggle room, however, as to how definitive it was for Bharara to remain in office.
If he is leaving, it would come a month before the trial schedule is decided in the case of Joe Percoco, a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo is under indictment in a bid rigging and bribery case involving top upstate developers and former president of SUNY Polytechnic.
Bharara’s office is also investigating fundraising activities by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is up for re-election this year.
Bharara’s impact on New York politics cannot be understated. He successfully won the convictions of the top legislative leaders in the Senate and Assembly — Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Speaker Sheldon Silver — in separate corruption cases, resulting in their removal from office and creating a political earthquake in Albany.
He had investigated Cuomo as well, including the circumstances surrounding the closure of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, which ultimately concluded without any charges.
Attention may turn to Bharara’s political future. He’s denied an interest in running for public office, but that could change if he is no longer a federal prosecutor.
More broadly, his potential resignation raises questions for the relationship between President Donadl Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Bharara worked in Schumer’s Senate office and was recommended for the high-profile Southern District post by the state’s senior senator.
Bharara this month created a personal Twitter account, which came as the rules changed for personalized accounts for U.S. attorneys.
The removal of a prior administration’s U.S. attorney’s is not unusual, but the DOJ is not commenting directly on Bharara’s status.
“As was the case in prior transitions, many of the United States Attorneys nominated by the previous administration already have left the Department of Justice,” said DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores. “The Attorney General has now asked the remaining 46 presidentially appointed U.S. Attorneys to tender their resignations in order to ensure a uniform transition. Until the new U.S. Attorneys are confirmed, the dedicated career prosecutors in our U.S. Attorney’s Offices will continue the great work of the Department in investigating, prosecuting, and deterring the most violent offenders.”
Nov 30th - 1:05 pm
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara on Wednesday is meeting with President-elect Donald Trump, a spokesman confirmed this afternoon.
Bharara, a hard-charging prosecutor who has won the convictions of the top legislative leaders in state government, may be on the way out with a new administration taking power in Washington.
Bharara would be leaving, however, amid a high-profile prosecution of a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Joe Percoco, as well as former SUNY Poly President Alain Kaloyeros and prominent upstate developers in a bid-rigging case.
Bharara’s departure is not necessarily a fait accompli. While the Justice Department appoints federal prosecutors, the state’s senior senator has sway over those appointments. In this case, it’s still Bharara’s former boss, incoming Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, whom Trump has publicly spoken of well.
Sep 23rd - 3:45 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, making his first public comments since U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s bombshell yesterday charging nine men with ties to the governor with corruption in connection to upstate economic development projects, insisted he had “no idea” about anything untoward taking place in his administration.
“I had no idea about anything that was contained in that complaint,” the governor insisted to reporters. “…These were secondary and tertiary level situations. I was not aware of who some of these people were representing, and who were their business consultants. And to the extent the situations that are laid out in the complaint were breathtaking to me when I read them.”
Cuomo seemed to be of two minds about Alain Kaloyeros, who is facing both state and federal charges alleging that he engaged in bid rigging on contracts worth millions of dollars of taxpayer money and has been suspended without pay from his post as president of SUNY Poly.
Cuomo noted that Kaloyeros had worked for five different governors since starting with SUNY in the 1980s, directing the investment of “billions” of dollars in state money into nanotech, and turning around Albany in the process.
” Mr. Kaloyeros has had a 20 year long career in state government.” the governor said. “He also has done a lot of good for New York State.”
As for Joe Percoco, whom Cuomo called a “a long-time friend of mine, a long-time friend of my family,” the governor reiterated: “I know him about 25 years; my father knows him since he was 19 years old. I said my father would be heartbroken if he read that complaint.”
Cuomo seemed to try to distance himself from this mess by saying that it was SUNY, not his administration, that was responsible for letting the contracts in question using its own procurement process, which is different from the process the rest of state government uses. He announced that the responsibility for letting future contracts would be given to the Empire State Development Corp., run by Buffalo resident Howard Zemsky, which will develop its own procurement process.
The governor also rejected the idea that the RiverBend project – the keystone of the Buffalo Billion – has been “tainted” by this scandal.
“It’s tainted quote unquote; I don’t know what that means in this context,” the governor said, clearly annoyed by the question. “The building is going up. The company is moving in. The jobs are being produced. There’s an allegation that the company may have done something wrong that developed it. Fine. It will go to the courts, there will be a process, there will be a trial and if they did something wrong they will be punished.”
Cuomo also said that these allegedly rigged contracts were “the exception to the rule,” noting the state lets hundreds – if not thousands – of contracts every year without incident or illegal behavior.
“We’re talking about nine charges, which is serious, but they are nine charges; so let’s keep it in focus,” the governor said.
Sep 22nd - 4:55 pm
At the same time Preet Bharara was holding his press conferences, on the other side of the state, three of the men he’s implicated in a pay-to-play scheme were appearing in court. Buffalo developer LPCiminelli executives Louis Ciminelli, Kevin Schuler and Michael Laipple were charged with wire fraud conspiracy and bribery in federal court.
Their attorneys said it’s a very complex case but the bottom line is their clients aren’t guilty.
“The government filed a lengthy complaint as I said in court and they should be ready to go. 79 pages of allegations and I can say this unequivocally, there was no bribery here. There was no crime committed. This is a total rush to judgment and I wish that everyone would hold their judgment until we’re done in this case,” attorney Daniel Oliverio said.
The defendants’ lawyers took turns criticizing the federal government for how Thursday played out. They said media outlets knew about the charges before they did.
“You’re presumed innocent, so to in advance provide information to news segments like Wall Street Journal, New York Times and things like that, in advance to even telling us about that, it runs the risk of jeopardizing their right to a fair trial,” attorney Terry Connors said.
Law enforcement certainly didn’t give the defendants any special treatment, arresting them before 7 a.m. in their homes. They were brought into court in handcuffs, all wearing street clothes.
Ciminelli, the company’s chairman, was in jeans and a t-shirt. The attorneys said they’ve been cooperating with the investigation for more than a year and their clients should’ve been afforded the opportunity to surrender themselves.
Sep 22nd - 1:46 pm
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara this afternoon outlined what he called a “network” of wrongdoers – both inside and out of state government – involved in two complex public corruption schemes that involved individuals close to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, including his former top aide, Joe Percoco.
Unlike in past press conferences, Bharara was careful not to go overboard in his excoriation of Albany. (He has been admonished by a judge in the past for saying too much, too soon).
He repeatedly stressed that the charges in the complaint unsealed this morning are “allegations,” though he also said that he hopes the eight remaining defendants – Todd Howe has already pleaded guilty, and is cooperating with investigators – end up going to trial, so New Yorkers “can see in gory detail what their state government has been up to.”
Bharara said the complaint outlines what he believes is a “systemic problem” in Albany – and he was also quick to note that when he uses the term “Albany,” he means the state government that is located there, and not the city itself, which he called a “wonderful town,” as Mayor Kathy Sheehan has told him “multiple times.”
Bharara was asked if Cuomo himself has any involvement in the case by a reporter who noted that he had once issued a statement absolving the governor of wrongdoing in connection with the early demise of the corruption-busting Moreland Commission. His reply:
“What I can say at this moment is that there are no allegations of any wrongdoing or misconduct by the governor anywhere in this complaint. That’s all I’m going to say.”
When pressed on whether it’s “realistic” to believe that the governor, who has a reputation of being something of a micromanager, did not know what his top aide was up to, Bharara said simply: “It’s not my job to comment on what is realistic or unrealistic.”
Bharara also said that this investigation, “as a general matter,” remains open.
The U.S. attorney was also asked if he believes that the corruption problem in Albany is getting better as a result of all the cases he has brought in recent years – including the successful prosecution of two men who were once among the state’s most powerful political players, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
“I presume some people have gotten the message and abstained from engaging in criminal activity,” Bharara said. “But we’re as busy as we ever were, in some ways busier…if that’s the metric you use then the assessment is not a positive one.”
Sep 22nd - 1:14 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo just released a statement in response to the public corruption charges brought by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara against a number of individuals with close ties to his administration, including his former top aide, Joe Percoco, whom he once described as like a third son to his late father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo.
In the statement, Cuomo does not mention Percoco by name. He severed ties with Percoco, known alternately as the governor’s muscle and right-hand man – perhaps closer to him than anyone else, and someone who followed him from job to job – when allegations of wrongdoing first became public this spring.
Cuomo does not mention anything about Todd Howe, the former lobbyist who is accused by Bharara of being involved in two complex bribing and bid-rigging schemes with Percoco and SUNY Poly head Alain Kaloyeros, also known as New York’s nano czar, who has long been one of the state’s top paid public employees.
Howe also has longstanding ties to Cuomo that date back to his father’s tenure in Albany.
According to the governor, SUNY has “relieved” Kaloyeros of his duties and suspended him without pay. According to Bharara’s complaint, Kaloyeros was earning in the neighborhood of $1.3 million.
Here’s the governor’s full statement:
“I learned this morning of the charges filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office that include a former member of my administration. If the allegations are true, I am saddened and profoundly disappointed. I hold my administration to the highest level of integrity.”
“I have zero tolerance for abuse of the public trust from anyone. If anything, a friend should be held to an even higher standard. Like my father before me, I believe public integrity is paramount. This sort of breach, if true, should be and will be punished.”
“SUNY has rightly relieved Alain Kaloyeros from his duties and has suspended him without pay, effective immediately.”
“This matter is now in the hands of the court, which is exactly where it belongs. My administration will continue to be fully cooperative in the matter as we have been since it began.”
Asked after his press conference whether Cuomo is in any way implicated in this case, Bharara said:
“What I can say at this moment is that there are no allegations of any wrongdoing or misconduct by the governor anywhere in this complaint. That’s all I’m going to say.”
Asked if it was “realistic” to believe that Cuomo, who is known as a very hands-on manager, did not know what his top aide was up to, Bharara replied:
“It’s not my job to comment on what is realistic or unrealistic.”
According to the U.S. attorney, this investigation is ongoing.