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Ronan Farrow: Phone Call by Cuomo Raises Legal Issues

Governor called White House in 2014 to complain about a federal prosecutor
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 10, 2021 10:45 AM CDT
Ronan Farrow's New Target: Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters during a news conference on May 10, 2021, in New York.   (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

(Newser) – The potential trouble for Andrew Cuomo keeps mounting. The latest arrives via an investigative piece about the New York governor by Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker. Farrow doesn't recount more allegations of sexual harassment, however. Instead, he reports that Cuomo made a highly improper, possibly illegal call to the White House in 2014 to complain about a federal prosecutor and an investigation of New York state politics. Now that call could factor into an ongoing impeachment investigation by state lawmakers. Details:

  • Farrow reports that a seething Cuomo called Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett in 2014 about Preet Bharara, then the US attorney for the Southern District of New York. "This guy's out of control," Cuomo said, according to Farrow. "He's your guy." This was in relation to the Moreland Commission, set up to investigate corruption in New York politics.
  • Jarrett tells Farrow that she quickly shut down the call when she realized Cuomo was calling to complain about the commission. She also reported it to the White House counsel, who agreed that Cuomo seemingly trying to use his political pull in regard to the inquiry was improper. "It's highly inappropriate and potentially illegal," adds Jennifer Rodgers of NYU Law School, a former prosecutor in Bharara's office. The story has multiple quotes to this effect from others.

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  • Farrow's story asserts that the call fits into Cuomo's pattern of retaliating against those who he feels have wronged him, an allegation raised by some of his harassment accusers. Cuomo actually set up the Moreland Commission, but the story makes the case that he shut it down when it began getting too close to the governor himself and his political allies.
  • The story includes interviews with two women who played leading roles on the commission, Danya Perry (its chief of investigations) and Kathleen Rice (a commission co-chair). Both accuse Cuomo of pressuring them as the work unfolded. "He was pulling back subpoenas that were gonna go to friends and supporters of his—it was just really unbelievable," says Rice.
  • Perry, while echoing that sentiment, adds that Cuomo once began telling her about his lackluster sex life with his girlfriend before she quickly changed the subject. "He was definitely very, very personal and fairly intrusive." (After Cuomo shut down the commission, Bharara ordered commissioners to preserve their documents, drawing the governor's ire.)
  • Andrew isn't the only Cuomo taking heat these days. In the Washington Post, columnist Erik Wemple writes that CNN must investigate anchor Chris Cuomo, who participated in damage-control conference calls with his brother. "What, precisely, did he say in the conference calls?" asks Wemple. "Was he aware that the executive chamber had provided false information to the Albany Times Union as the paper explored the predicament of 'Trooper #1'? What role did he play in the governor's denials?" The network has acknowledged the above as inappropriate, but Wemple accuses CNN of whitewashing Chris Cuomo's full role.
(Read more Andrew Cuomo stories.)

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