U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has announced he is closing his office's investigation of Governor Cuomo over his early shuttering of the anti-corruption Moreland Commission as it zeroed in on shady dealings involving him and his allies. Bharara wrote in a statement:
"After a thorough investigation of interference with the operation of the Moreland Commission and its premature closing, this office has concluded that, absent any additional proof that may develop, there is insufficient evidence to prove a federal crime."
The Moreland Commission, if you'll recall, was created in the summer of 2013 by Cuomo, who pledged at the time, "Anything they want to look at, they can look at—me, the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the comptroller, any senator, any assemblyman."
However, when the panel started sniffing around the Real Estate Board of New York, prominent developers/Cuomo donors, and a media firm with ties to the governor, Cuomo aides started demanding investigators change their lines of inquiry, and in early 2015, the governor shut the thing down.
Pretending, as he is prone to doing, that there is no past or future, only the eternal, lying present, Cuomo told the New York Times in 2014, "A commission appointed by and staffed by the executive cannot investigate the executive. It is a pure conflict of interest and would not pass the laugh test."
In the days after the Times published an investigation showing just how deep the gubernatorial meddling in the commission went, Cuomo aides solicited statements from commissioners saying that everything was aboveboard. For this, Bharara publicly threatened the governor with obstruction of justice and witness tampering charges.
Responding to news that the coverup was determined to be legal, a lawyer for the governor's office said Cuomo knew he was clean all along.
"We were always confident there was no illegality here, and we appreciate the U.S. attorney clarifying this for the public record." Elkan Abramowitz said in a statement.
— Ben Max (@TweetBenMax) January 11, 2016
The end of the commission-torpedoing probe doesn't mean the collective dream of seeing the governor frogmarched into a waiting black Crown Victoria is dead. In investigating the panel, Bharara's office took custody of its files, and of the Blackberry phones commissioners had been instructed to use for secret communications with the governor's office. Threads from existing Moreland investigations are said to have played into the successful prosecutions of former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, former Senate majority leader Dean Skelos, and Skelos's no-account son Adam.
More investigations remain open, according to Bharara.
"We continue to have active investigations related to substantive inquiries that were being conducted by the Moreland Commission at the time of its closure," he said in his statement.
One of those inquiries concerns the Buffalo Billion project, and specifically, the process by which three developers who are Cuomo donors came to get the bulk of the billion dollars in state contracts to develop major projects in Buffalo. The feds have subpoenaed the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute, the president of which, Alain Kaloyeros, oversees the program. The infusion is supposed to generate thousands of upstate jobs through the tech, clean-energy, and pharmaceutical facilities the Cuomo cronies were tapped to build with $855 million in taxpayer money.