Gov. Cuomo’s office hires defense attorney amid federal investigation over his handling of the Moreland Commission

Reports say one of Cuomo's aides encouraged members

Reports say one of Cuomo's aides encouraged members of the commission to publicly defend him. (Credit: News 12)

ALBANY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office hired a defense attorney over the federal government's investigation into his handling of the now-defunct Moreland Commission.

Criminal defense attorney Elkan Abramowitz tells News 12 that Cuomo's office hired him several months ago in connection with the probe. Cuomo and his staff are being investigated by U.S. attorney Preet Bharara to determine if they influenced the anti-corruption commission to deliberately end subpoenas for groups that had ties to the governor.

Bharara also turned up the heat on Cuomo, implying the governor and his staff pressured commission members to publicly back him. Bharara says that could potentially amount to charges of witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

The Albany Times Union reports that Cuomo aide Joseph Percoco allegedly contacted several commission members last week, encouraging them to publicly defend Cuomo. The Times Union also says Percoco even offered to provide draft statements. Four commission members, including co-chairman William Fitzpatrick and Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe, issued statements Monday saying Cuomo never interfered with them. Just days earlier, Zugibe had said he would not comment until the investigation was over.

Cuomo's office admitted speaking to commission members, but says it was only to correct what they considered to be inaccuracies found in published reports. The governor's office says they will also no longer comment on the matter, saying the ongoing public dialogue is not helping the investigation.

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