As federal investigators poke around an anti-corruption panel that Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice co-chaired, her congressional opponent, Bruce Blakeman, is calling for Rice to publicly say whether she is the target of a criminal investigation.
“The voters in the 4th Congressional District and the voters of Nassau County are entitled to know whether their district attorney is under criminal investigation,” Blakeman said at a news conference Wednesday morning.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has said his office has launched an investigation into the shutdown of the state’s Commission to Investigate Public Corruption – known as the Moreland Commission. Federal investigators are also looking into whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo or his staff may have obstructed justice or tampered with witnesses.
A spokesman for Rice blasted Blakeman Wednesday, saying Rice is “absolutely not” the target of a criminal inquiry and said she has spent her career going after corrupt officials.
“As has been extensively reported, Kathleen is assisting and contributing to the federal probe, and to suggest otherwise is a potentially libelous statement that Blakeman knows is not true,” spokesman Eric Phillips said. “It’s more proof that when it comes to Bruce Blakeman, no fact is too true to distort and no gutter is too deep to call home.”
Rice has said she will not comment about her time as co-chair of the commission because she is “helping to preserve the confidentiality of an investigation.” Blakeman says Rice is free to speak about her role on the panel and that she is “hiding behind” the federal probe.
Blakeman said Wednesday that Rice should disclose whether she has hired a defense lawyer, asked for immunity or became a cooperating witness for federal prosecutors. An ethics attorney hired by the Blakeman campaign has also penned a letter to Rice, which demands answers to those and other questions relating to the Moreland Commission.
“There is no legal basis for your continued refusal to answer these rudimentary questions,” attorney David Grandeau said in the letter. “Nothing about these questions or your answers would hamper or interfere with the U.S. Attorney’s probe.”
In response, Phillips said: “Blakeman’s flailing campaign will spend every day of this race reinventing himself and repackaging these facts as lies, but we don’t think voters will be fooled."