ALBANY -- U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara vowed that he has the “fearlessness and independence” needed to investigate Albany corruption as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is accused of interfering with his own corruption commission.
“If other people aren’t going to do it, then we’re going to do it,” Bharara said on the PBS’ program “Charlie Rose."
“Our interest above all other interests is to make sure that the job is getting done, because we are the people who do our jobs,” Bharara said. The comments came after The New York Times reported several incidents of involvement in the corruption commission by Cuomo and his top aide.
Cuomo abruptly abolished the Moreland Commission this year after securing a political deal with the Legislature for some ethics measures. Bharara then sought and received the commission’s unfinished investigations and ordered state officials not to destroy records.
Cuomo had no comment Thursday.
“We asked for and received -- we were voluntarily offered -- all the documents that have been collected by the commission so the work could continue," Bharara said. "Because if other people aren’t going to do it, then we’re going to do it. That’s our main mission.”
“We have the documents and we have the resources and we have the wherewithal and we have. I think, the kind of fearlessness and independence that is required to do difficult public corruption cases,” he said.
The Cuomo administration has said its involvement with the commission was simply appropriate advice and that decisions on whether to issue subpoenas were made by the commission’s co-chairmen. Cuomo notes the Moreland Act under which the commission was created requires the commission to report to the governor. The act restricts investigations to the executive branch.
However, Cuomo had Attorney General Eric Schneiderman deputize commissioners so they could investigate the Legislature, which was the focus of the commission even as some members sought to probe Cuomo’s donors and supporters.
“I think there is a good argument that the governor’s office cannot interfere with an attorney general’s investigation if the facts bear that out,” said former Assemb. Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester), now a fellow at the Demos think tank, a lawyer, and instructor at the Wagner School at New York University.