‘Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day:’ Preet Bharara Continues Cuomo Criticism on Anti-Corruption Commission

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. (Photo: Getty)

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. (Photo: Getty)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently disbanded a commission convened to fight public corruption, angering one U.S. Attorney on a crusade to root out law-breaking pols in New York.

After criticizing Mr. Cuomo in today’s New York Times for ending the Moreland Commission, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara reaffirmed his dissatisfaction with Mr. Cuomo’s decision on The Brian Lehrer Show today.

“We pursue things aggressively and quickly but things don’t happen overnight,” Mr. Bharara said. “Rome wasn’t built in a day and a commission can’t show great success when it was intended to be in existence for one, two, three or four years … it’s not going to happen overnight with us either. But if there’s something to pursue that’s worth pursuing, we’ll do it.”

Mr. Cuomo created the commission last year to investigate corruption in the state legislature after a high-profile string of arrests–partially brought about by Mr. Bharara’s aggressive office. The governor abruptly shut down the commission less than two weeks ago, arguing that new ethics legislation, like tougher laws on bribery and corruption, and improved enforcement of election laws, would adequately replace the panel.

But Mr. Bharara has gone on the attack, contending that the commission did not exist nearly long enough to succeed in its mission. His office is now in the process of picking up the commission’s investigation documents, which reportedly include 200 subpoenas and requests for information, interviews, depositions and records of undercover operations including surveillance and recorded telephone calls.

Mr. Bharara, who also repeatedly denied during his radio interview today that he harbors any intentions of running for office in the future himself, stopped short of speculating about Mr. Cuomo’s motivations for terminating the commission. He did say, however, that he would be scrutinizing the Moreland files to see if any indictments could be brought against lawmakers.

“What’s important is, I’ve said a couple of times, is that we get the files and see what needs to be done and I think it’s up to the public to ask questions why this commission was disbanded early,” Mr. Bharara said. “I don’t know what facts will come to light once we look at the files and I don’t know what went on and what deals were struck. I think in a letter I sent to the commission that said there was an appearance [that] cases were being bargained away in exchange for a political deal, but I don’t know the answers to those questions.”

“But I think those are legitimate questions for people to ask,” he added, “and maybe we’ll be asking them also.”