Prosecutor warns Cuomo over corruption probe

ALBANY – A criminal defense attorney said Thursday that he has been retained by the office of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo as a federal prosecutor threatened to widen an investigation into the governor’s handling of an anti-corruption commission.

Elkan Abramowitz said Thursday he was hired some time ago to represent the governor’s executive chamber as a whole and not Cuomo or another specific person.

Cuomo’s administration is facing questions about whether it meddled with the commission when a top aide, Larry Schwartz, urged commissioners not to investigate entities with links to Cuomo. Cuomo abruptly shut down the commission this spring. Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara criticized the panel’s demise as premature and has vowed to continue its work.

On Thursday, The New York Times reported that Bharara has threatened to investigate Cuomo for obstruction of justice or witness tampering for allegedly asking members of the commissioners to speak out about their work on the panel.

The newspaper reported that Bharara wrote to the commission’s attorney on Wednesday saying his office will investigate any attempts to “influence or tamper” with the recollection of commission members, “as we must consider whether such actions constitute obstruction of justice or tampering with witnesses that violate federal law.”

Cuomo acknowledged in a statement Thursday that his office had discussions with “relevant parties” about his concerns regarding recent news reports that Schwartz pressured the commission not to investigate entities with ties to Cuomo.

“We discussed these concerns,” Cuomo said in his statement. “Several members of the commission … issued personal statements to correct the public record.”

The prosecutor’s warning is the sharpest exchange yet in the deepening controversy over Cuomo’s handling of the 25-member Moreland commission, which the governor created last year to root out corruption.

Bharara’s office would not comment on the letter when contacted by The Associated Press.