Cuomo Chief-Of-Staff: Trial Won’t Affect Cuomo’s Future
NEW YORK (AP) — The chief of staff for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo emerged Thursday from testimony at the bribery trial of one of Cuomo's former top aides to say the prosecution would not affect the Democrat's political trajectory.
Linda Lacewell commented briefly to reporters outside Manhattan federal court after she finished testifying at the trial of Joseph Percoco, Cuomo's longtime confidante and the chairman of his 2014 re-election campaign.
Lacewell was asked if she worried that the trial would hurt the political future of a governor who is considered a possible White House candidate in 2020.
"Not at all," she answered.
Cuomo has never confirmed that he's interested in running for president someday, saying instead that he's focused on winning a third term as governor this year. He has not been accused of wrongdoing and is not expected to testify.
Lacewell testified with confidence from the witness stand, even briefly stopping the proceedings when she said she didn't think it was appropriate to answer a question. She did not have to answer.
"Listen, I'm a former federal prosecutor," she said outside court after finishing testimony over two days. "I've conducted trials. I'm going to respect the process here. There's a jury with a trial underway. Let's let that go forward. I think my testimony speaks for itself. And thank you very much."
Percoco, Cuomo's former executive deputy secretary, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he pocketed over $300,000 in bribes to help three businessmen clear state government obstacles. The three businessmen on trial with him also have pleaded not guilty.
On Wednesday, Lacewell described Cuomo's surprise when Percoco spoke with him on the day in 2016 when investigators raided his home.
"What?" the governor asked as Percoco told him about his work for two companies that had business before the state, Lacewell recalled.
Barry Bohrer, Percoco's defense lawyer, asked Lacewell to revisit the day of the raid on Percoco's Westchester County home.
An objection blocked Lacewell from answering whether she knew she was the first person Percoco called when investigators showed up at his door.
Another defense lawyer, Stephen Coffey, asked Lacewell: "You do not view yourself as a witness for the government?"
An objection blocked her from answering that as well.
As she had a day earlier, Assistant U.S. Attorney Janis Echenberg questioned Lacewell to establish that Percoco had been warned that he was banned from advocating on behalf of anyone who had business before the state for two years after leaving his government post.
The government contends he broke that rule. Defense lawyers say he did not break the law.
Associated Press writer David Klepper in Albany contributed to this report.