U.S. attorney threatens to investigate Andrew Cuomo for witness tampering

Preet Bharara sends letter to guv threatening to investigate claims that Cuomo thwarted his own ethics commission

Published July 31, 2014 2:41PM (EDT)

  (AP/Mike Groll)
(AP/Mike Groll)

The full consequences of the New York Times' recent bombshell report showing Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office interfered with the work of his anti-corruption commission have yet to be felt, but here's a big one: Preet Bhara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, is warning Cuomo that he may investigate allegations of obstruction of justice and witness tampering.

The threat reached Cuomo via a "sharply worded letter" sent to a lawyer for the panel, reports the Times, and was likely intended to be seen as a response to the recent string of public statements in Cuomo's defense coming from former commission members. Bhara's office has been looking into the fate of the commission since no later than April of this year.

According to the Times, the letter alleges that at least some of the people who have recently come to Cuomo's defense were prompted to do so by the governor or his friends. One commissioner, who like others has asked to remain nameless for fear of reprisal, described a call he received on Cuomo's behalf as  unsettling. He declined to make a public statement of support.

More from the New York Times:

The letter from prosecutors, which was read to The New York Times, says, “We have reason to believe a number of commissioners recently have been contacted about the commission’s work, and some commissioners have been asked to issue public statements characterizing events and facts regarding the commission’s operation.”

“To the extent anyone attempts to influence or tamper with a witness’s recollection of events relevant to our investigation, including the recollection of a commissioner or one of the commission’s employees, we request that you advise our office immediately, as we must consider whether such actions constitute obstruction of justice or tampering with witnesses that violate federal law.”

Reached late Wednesday night, a spokesman for the governor did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter from Mr. Bharara’s office. A lawyer for the commission declined to comment on the letter.

By Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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