Andrew Cuomo’s Watergate?

Andrew Cuomo’s Watergate?

The New York Times reports today that US Attorney Preet Bharara has warned Cuomo about obstruction of justice. This warning came after Cuomo on Monday defended his decision to disband the state Moreland Commission formed to investigate corruption in Albany. Cuomo’s defense responded to a detailed Times story about interference with the commission’s work by the governor and his people. Concurrent with Cuomo’s Monday defense, some commission members publicly said there was no interference. Cuomo repeatedly cited some of these statements. One of the commissioners whose statements Cuomo cited several times had previously said or implied the opposite.

Although the possible implications from Bharara’s letter are far less sordid than the burglary and bribery in Watergate, the lesson is the same: it’s not the crime but the coverup. Left unsaid is that a coverup can also be a crime.

It may all turn out to be innocent (see below), but surely Cuomo did not need this headache. He did not need to give a Bharara a basis to investigate him and his inner circle. It could have been avoided if Cuomo had made his defense without the chorus of commissioner statements.

Before Monday, I and others had been trying to figure out what statutes Bharara may have been looking at. Certainly, he could pursue evidence of corruption by state officials, including lawmakers, whom the commission had been investigating before it was dismissed, and about which it had files.

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