Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino said he believed there was a “strong likelihood” that criminal charges would follow a New York Times story alleging Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration interfered with the Moreland Commission investigating public corruption.
“This is obviously very serious – it’s likely, a strong likelihood, of resulting indictments and criminal charges,” Mr. Astorino said on a conference call with reporters. “Andrew Cuomo has a lot of questions to answer, and I call on him to immediately hold a press conference.”
Asked what criminal charges he thought could arise, Mr. Astorino responded, “I would probably say obstruction of justice.”
“This was not an advisory board that reports to the governor,” Mr. Astorino said, in reference to Mr. Cuomo’s response to the Times that his office was always meant to oversee and direct the commission’s work. “This was a separate, independent commission that is supposed to be looking into corruption wherever it led — and it seems that when it led to the governor’s office, it was turned away, it was crushed, it was stopped. That’s obstruction of justice.”
He called on federal prosecutors to investigate the claims in the Times story quickly.
“It needs to be known before the election,” Mr. Astorino.
Mr. Astorino also sought to blame his lag in the polls – the most recent poll showed Mr. Cuomo 37 points ahead – on corruption.
“In my mind, this is the most corrupt governor in history and his lead in the polls, by the way, is dirty, it’s corrupt, and it’s based on a big lie,” Mr. Astorino said.
The Westchester county executive also called for top Cuomo aide Lawrence Schwartz to lose his job. The Times cited emails saying Mr. Schwartz told commissioners to “pull it back” when issuing a subpoena to a firm tied to the governor.
“If he hasn’t lost his job right now, then clearly something is wrong,” Mr. Astorino said. “At this point they’re only working on the shredders.”
A Cuomo campaign spokesman knocked Mr. Astorino’s own ethics records following recent reports that he’s collected outside income from a radio company while serving as count executive.
“It takes a lot of nerve for Westchester’s king of cronyism to launch attacks on ethics. Rob Astorino should come clean on his outside income and the raises he’s given to political allies,” spokesman Peter Kauffmann said.
The Times story also prompted Mr. Cuomo’s Democratic opponent Zephyr Teachout to call for Mr. Cuomo to resign earlier today.
Mr. Astorino is in Colorado for a meeting of the Republican Governor’s Association, headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The two have traded comments via the press in the last several days, with Mr. Christie declaring that the RGA doesn’t waste money on lost causes and Mr. Astorino responding that if the governor feels that way, perhaps he should resign from the RGA.
But the candidate said he’d look to talk to Mr. Christie tonight in person – and implied Mr. Christie be more open to helping out his Republican neighbor across the river given the news about Mr. Cuomo.
What will he say to Mr. Christie?
“The same thing I said to him yesterday — but now I brought a copy of the New York Times,” Mr. Astorino said.
Updated with comment from Mr. Cuomo’s campaign.