8:32 AM 12/9/2017 – Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s hiring practices under FBI investigation: report

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s hiring practices under FBI investigation: report

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s hiring practices under FBI investigation: report

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Andrew Cuomo’s administration is under FBI investigation for a decades-old practice of spreading governor’s office employee salaries across the payrolls of various other state agencies and authorities, according to the Times Union. Jon Campbell / Albany Bureau

Gov. Andrew Cuomo hasn’t offered an end-of-session agenda for the New York Legislative session, which ends Wednesday.(Photo: AP)

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration on Friday dismissed an apparent FBI investigation into its hiring practices as a “charade,” pointing to previous New York governors that have used a similar personnel strategy.

The Times Union of Albany reported Friday that federal investigators have interviewed a number of Cuomo employees in recent months who work in the governor’s office but are actually on the payroll of various other state agencies and authorities.

For years, New York governors have used that hiring strategy to inflate their own staff while seemingly keeping the governor’s office budget down on paper.

Cuomo is no exception: Dozens of his staffers are paid by the Dormitory Authority, Department of Transportation and other state entities other than the governor’s office, payroll records show.

An FBI spokesman could not be reached for comment Friday, while a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New York’s Eastern District declined to confirm or deny any investigation.

A spokesman for Cuomo defended his administration’s hiring policies, calling the apparent line of FBI questioning “absurd.”

“In this environment, anyone can ask about anything, but the fact is the longstanding practice of detailing staff from Agencies to work in the Executive Chamber dates back over 50 years to at least the Rockefeller administration and extends to the White House and the federal Department of Justice,” Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said in a statement.

“Given that the Federal Department of Justice and the White House have a long history of utilizing this practice, perhaps the FBI can investigate them when this is charade is over.”

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The hiring practice has been used by New York governors dating back at least three decades, when then-Gov. Mario Cuomo — Andrew’s father — pledged to cut his personal payroll by 10 percent but actually used other state agencies to add workers to his staff, according to a 1984 article in The New York Times.

The current governor has used the strategy dating back to when he took office in 2011, but has expanded it significantly in recent months.

In March, Cuomo announced the hiring of 27 employees, including several who once worked for Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama.

More than 20 of those employees work in Cuomo’s office, but only five are actually on the governor’s office’s payroll, according to the Times Union.

That includes Carolyn Pokorny, Cuomo’s chief special counsel for ethics, risk and compliance. She is paid $158,000 a year by Empire State Development, the state’s economic-development branch. Penny Lowy, Cuomo’s appointments secretary, is paid $150,000 a year by the state Office of General Services.

As of November 2016, about of 40 percent of Cuomo’s total staff was paid by other agencies, according to the paper.

It wasn’t clear Friday what laws the FBI is focusing on in its investigation, but the Times Union reported investigators have focused in part on hiring letters and other documentation given to new employees.

In his statement, Azzopardi said investigators should “call George Pataki” if there are questions about the hiring practice. The Republican governor also used the hiring strategy when he was in office from 1995 through 2006.

“‎The agencies are all part of the same executive branch, and this administration follows the exact same lawful hiring process we inherited from previous administrations stretching back decades,” Azzopardi said.

Cuomo’s office has been investigated by the FBI and federal prosecutors before.

In 2014, then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara began investigating Cuomo’s abrupt shuttering of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, a corruption-busting panel the governor had set up to probe wrongdoing in Albany.

But in January 2016, Bharara announced there was “insufficient evidence to prove a federal crime.”

Early next year, Cuomo’s former top aide Joseph Percoco will stand trial. He’s accused of accused of accepting $287,000 from a Maryland-based power company and a Syracuse developer, both of whom had substantial business before the state.

Percoco has pleaded not guilty.

<a href=”mailto:JCampbell1@Gannett.com”>JCampbell1@Gannett.com</a>

Jon Campbell is a correspondent with USA TODAY Network’s Albany Bureau. 

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Congress Must Charge Stonewalling DOJ, FBI With Contempt – Newsmax

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How Russia Cheats – The New York Times

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The Kremlin dismissed the details of both schemes as “absurd,” but on Tuesday Russia was barred from the 2018 Winter Games for its state-backed cheating. Some individual Russian athletes may compete independently in neutral uniforms, but the Russian flag will not appear when the Games begin in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The details of the sports scandal — deconstructed by Russian whistle-blowers who have provided rare insider insights — offer perhaps the purest case study of Russia’s drive to dominate, its brazen methods and, in part, its motivation to influence the American presidency.

In a declassified intelligence report released early this year, United States officials said Russia’s attacks on the election had been, for Mr. Putin, partial payback for the doping scandal, which he repeatedly called an American-led effort to defame Russia. Last month, as new medals were stripped from Russian Olympians, Mr. Putin said the disqualifications were the United States’ attempt to undermine his re-election.

In fact, sports regulators and investigators who conducted the multiple investigations into Russia’s doping are headquartered in Canada, and the Olympic leadership in charge of disqualifying athletes is based in Switzerland. It was the former president of that staunchly neutral country, Samuel Schmid, who conducted the latest investigation for the Olympic committee, resulting in Tuesday’s sanctions.

In scrutinizing Russia, sports and antidoping officials have said they acted on objective forensic and scientific evidence of Russia’s fraud: documents, data, lab analyses and glass bottles of urine with telltale signs of tampering. Just as allies of the special counsel Robert Mueller have done this year in the context of the election inquiry, the officials have defended their impartiality and interest in plain facts.

Three key whistle-blowers helped provide those facts: Grigory Rodchenkov, Russia’s former longtime chief antidoping chemist, as well as Yuliya and Vitaly Stepanov, a former Russian runner and a former employee of the nation’s antidoping agency. All now live in the United States, in undisclosed locations from which they have spoken openly about years of coordinated cheating. The Justice Department, too, has taken interest in their evidence.

Dr. Rodchenkov, whose personal diaries cataloged each day of cheating in Sochi, came to the United States only after Vitaly Mutko — Russia’s deputy prime minister and former sports minister — asked him to resign in light of growing global suspicions about the extent of the nation’s cheating, which the chemist had helped mastermind.

“Today we also have a meeting, how to come from defensive to offensive,” Dr. Rodchenkov wrote to me in an email on Nov. 10, 2015, having initially denied wrongdoing in our early exchanges. At that meeting, Mr. Mutko effectively dismissed him and set off a dramatic chain of events: “Freedom!” he wrote in another email that night.

Dr. Rodchenkov’s tell-all account, reported in The Times in May 2016 and detailed in the documentary “Icarus,” culminated in Russia’s Olympic ban this week. It was instrumental in motivating some Russian officials to temper their rigid denials and acknowledge that an “institutional conspiracy” had existed, though they maintained it had not been state sponsored.

Still, before this week’s final sanctions were announced, global athletes, antidoping advocates and some sponsors had expressed concern about a growing crisis in international sports, pointing to the long delay by both regulators and Olympic officials in responding to evidence of widespread cheating that went even beyond Sochi.

As those critics wondered when or if sports officials would penalize Russia for its systematic transgressions by rescinding Olympic medals and condemning the state-supported schemes, they questioned not just fundamental frailties in drug-testing controls but also the independence of antidoping authorities.

One year later, similar basic questions about separation of power have taken on renewed relevance in American politics as a result of Russia’s breaches. Those questions have followed Mr. Trump’s repeated attacks on the independence of the Justice Department, in defiance of the post-Watergate norms intended to insulate law enforcement from partisan and personal agendas.

In the same way that Mr. Trump has avoided acknowledging evidence of Russia’s interference in the election, Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, took more than a year to accept the extensive evidence of Russia’s interference in the Sochi Olympic lab operations.

Other sports officials, such as the president of skiing’s governing body, initially told me that the evidence on Russia was conspiratorial or “too Hollywood,” just as some Republican lawmakers have doubted the legitimacy of Mr. Mueller’s mandate.

In drawing out his decision-making until this week, Mr. Bach called for due process and stressed the importance of giving Russia a fair chance to defend itself.

One defense came just after the early penalties for Russian athletes at the 2016 Olympics: a set of cyberattacks. A group known as Fancy Bear — which American intelligence officials tied to Russia’s main military intelligence unit, the G.R.U. — published the hacked private medical records of top American athletes, as well as the private emails of antidoping officials who had lobbied for a ban on Russia.

The hackers — the same group that stole emails from the Democratic National Committee’s servers and released them ahead of the 2016 election — called the athlete records proof of illegal drug use by stars such as Simone Biles and Serena Williams. All athletes had received necessary clearances to use the substances in question, and none of the information constituted a violation.

In a fiery interview in Moscow last year, Mr. Mutko, the former sports minister and current deputy prime minister, echoed Mr. Putin, arguing that Russia had been disadvantaged globally. In sports as in all things, he said, the decks were stacked against the nation.

This week, he was barred from attending any future Olympics, though he remains at the helm of Russia’s 2018 soccer World Cup.

“Somebody has to take the responsibility,” he said in July 2016, three months before Mr. Putin promoted him. “There must be a master at home.”

Correction: December 8, 2017An earlier version of the photo caption with this article misstated the location of Sochi. It is in Russia, not Japan.

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NPR News Now: NPR News: 12-09-2017 7AM ET

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On Friday night when the Kings and Pelicans faced off, Randolph let Cousins know that after the two got in a dust-up late in the game.

“Where I’m from bullies get bullied. In my hood bullies get bullied, Randolph said to Cousins.

Well then!

It all started with the two getting tangled up here before these free throws.

I wouldnt want to get in the middle of that conversation. Those are two dudes who, as Marshawn Lynch would say, are bout that action, boss.

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