That’s good news for the incoming Biden administration, whether they realize it or not. For some reason, the Associated Press heard that Joe Biden had Andrew Cuomo on his short list for Attorney General, a move that would have made exactly zero sense even before one of his aides began accusing Cuomo of sexual harassment. Even given Biden’s penchant for retreads, Cuomo is more trouble than he’s worth — and not just for his nursing-home disaster in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just how much of a disaster? Some Department of Justice career officials sent up a warning late yesterday about Cuomo’s integrity via Politico, a warning that shouldn’t have been necessary in the first place:
A number of corruption-focused, good government types — including some from within the Justice Department — are raising red flags amid reporting that New York Gov. ANDREW CUOMO is under consideration for attorney general.
One federal prosecutor focused on anti-corruption cases told us that “Cuomo may have various merits, but he is just too tainted with allegations of corruption to credibly serve as the attorney general. Some of his close associates have been convicted of federal corruption crimes, and Cuomo himself was under investigation for his suspicious closure of the Moreland Commission.”
The prosecutor continued: “The DOJ needs leadership whose integrity is 100% beyond reproach. Cuomo falls short and his appointment would devastate the rank and file.”
If you want a taste of the integrity of Cuomo’s leadership, just do a search on “Buffalo Billion.” Jazz has written about it a few times here, as the scandal had unfolded over a few years. It resulted in federal convictions of Cuomo cronies, including his former right-hand man Joe Percoco. Cuomo claimed that then-US Attorney Preet Bharara had only gone after Percoco to get to him, and that Percoco’s conviction was a vindication of his leadership, or something:
For years, Joe Percoco acted as Cuomo’s political enforcer, as well as his eyes and ears, recognizing problems before they turned into headaches and brokering compromises. Percoco played a pivotal role in the 2011 Marriage Equality Act, persuading leaders of the state’s Orthodox Jewish community not to fight the proposal. Percoco was more than a top aide, though: At Mario’s funeral, Andrew described him as his father’s “third son.” In March, Percoco was found guilty of three felonies for soliciting and accepting $300,000 in bribes from the executives of two companies doing business with the state during a brief period when he was off the state payroll. …
Cuomo argues that the Buffalo and Percoco cases are the deeds of isolated bad actors. Kaloyeros, he says, had a sterling track record, had worked for multiple prior New York governors, and was under the supervision of SUNY administrators. “Percoco did really stupid things. Hurtful and disgusting and stupid, but stupid. And I had absolutely nothing to do with anything,” he says. “So in Cuomo’s administration there was a guy who was dirty? Yes. Well, that’s terrible. And I’m going to condemn him for it. If I’m you, and I’m smart, I say, Preet Bharara” — then the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York — “doesn’t go after Percoco to go after Percoco. He’s going after Percoco to get the governor. That means they had to go through every piece of paper and every email for two years. And that they couldn’t find any connection whatsoever, in many ways it’s the most credible exoneration in history, because Preet was a scalp hunter and that’s all he was. If he had Joe Percoco and every file from Joe Percoco and he can’t find a whisper on me, that is a hell of a thing.”
That’s a hell of an argument, even for a gubernatorial campaign: The DoJ didn’t nail me! It’s an even more bizarre argument in terms of becoming the head of the DoJ.
Bharara — not exactly a crypto-conservative — found Cuomo’s spin amusing at best, and entirely deceptive:
Bharara, during eight years as the U.S. attorney, won about a dozen corruption convictions of state politicians, including the leaders of both houses of the State Legislature. “I appreciate Andrew Cuomo’s need to spin,” Bharara tells me. “But I don’t think he has anything to be proud of in the Buffalo Billion scandals or, frankly, in his record on corruption generally.”
How much do you want to bet that Bharara is one of Politico’s sources?
Anyway, Cuomo apparently doesn’t want to press his luck in a Senate confirmation hearing, either on Buffalo Billion or on his nursing-home edict. He told reporters yesterday that he’s too busy to take Biden’s call:
On Monday, Cuomo reiterated what he has said several times before: He does not intend to join the Biden administration.
“My job as New York governor is nowhere near over,” said Cuomo, a longtime Biden supporter. “I’m flattered to be considered, but that hasn’t changed my thinking.”
That’s good news for the rest of us, but bad news for New Yorkers. You won’t get rid of The Love Gov that easily. Speaking of which, here’s Cuomo in the same presser denying Lindsey Boylan’s accusation of sexual harassment. If this were Cuomo (R), the media would be instantly telling us that the governor’s denials are themselves an indictment of the patriarchy. As it stands, though, Boylan had better be prepared to watch the media give Cuomo the (D) treatment. She can ask Tara Reade how that works.