Rangel Defends Cuomo as Moreland Controversy Simmers

Congressman Charlie Rangel. (Photo:  Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Congressman Charles Rangel. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo at least has Congressman Charles Rangel in his corner.

Mr. Rangel, who secured Mr. Cuomo’s endorsement during his most recent re-election bid, offered a defense of Mr. Cuomo’s handling of an anti-corruption commission he created, even questioning the validity of a federal investigation now aimed at the governor.

“I know that most of the attacks are coming from the New York Post,” Mr. Rangel told Observer today, claiming the right-leaning tabloid (and not the New York Times, which ran a front page story about Mr. Cuomo’s Moreland Commission) was fermenting the controversy. “We have a commission where the commissioners said that no one interfered with them and we have the New York Post saying they don’t believe them.”

“The fact is, no prosecutor should be critical of anybody until the case goes before the grand jury. That’s our system of government and I’d really hope he’d have a thorough investigation of the whole thing. That’s the only way fair-minded people should look at issues like that,” Mr. Rangel continued, speaking of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. “There’s certain people who make the accusations just to make a headline in the newspaper.”

Mr. Rangel, the dean of the New York congressional delegation and a Democratic stalwart, was taking questions at a rally for Mr. Cuomo’s running mate, former Congresswoman Kathy Hochul. Mr. Rangel, along with California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and several city elected officials, boosted Ms. Hochul at the Upper West Side event.

Ms. Pelosi, while willing to heap praise on Mr. Cuomo and validate his liberal credentials–the left flank of the party has not always been pleased with the centrist Democrat–did not take any questions about the Moreland Commission, telling the Observer she has not been “following” the investigation before speeding off with aides. Senator Charles Schumer similarly failed to address the controversy on Tuesday.

Last year, Mr. Cuomo created the Moreland Commission to investigate public corruption, promising the body could investigate the state legislature and himself. Reports later revealed Mr. Cuomo repeatedly meddled with the commission’s investigations, attempting to pull back subpoenas that led to the executive branch. Mr. Cuomo quietly terminated the commission this year, angering U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who is now taking on the investigations Mr. Cuomo’s commission cut short.

Mr. Bharara is also reportedly investigating Mr. Cuomo: after several former members of the Moreland Commission publicly defended its work (in coordination with Mr. Cuomo’s office), Mr. Bharara warned Mr. Cuomo not to tamper with witnesses. Mr. Cuomo’s office has since hired a criminal defense attorney, a move that Mr. Rangel colorfully defended.

“When I was in law school, the first thing they told me is that a lawyer is an asshole if he tried to defend himself,” Mr. Rangel said. “Now Cuomo’s a lawyer, his father’s a lawyer and people are making accusations from the United States attorney’s office. Now I’ve been a United States attorney and I’ve put people to jail more than I can remember. I would think that the governor would be a damn fool if the U.S. attorney’s office was investigating and he had no counsel.”