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Cuomo, staff and party leaders dodge questions about probe of Pigeon

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s government and political associates continue to avoid answering questions about connections between his 2014 campaign and a federal complaint facing political operative G. Steven Pigeon.

The Buffalo News made several attempts  to discuss the $25,000 donation Pigeon allegedly sought to procure in 2014 – a centerpiece of the complaint against him. None of the attempts was successful.

The federal complaint, based on emails seized from Pigeon’s waterfront condo during a 2015 raid, alleges he conspired to hide the true source of the foreign contribution while arranging it for a Manhattan event featuring the governor. He could face five years in jail if convicted.

The complaint adds that Pigeon, two others anonymously listed in the papers “and possibly others,” conspired to make the donation.

Pigeon, the former Erie County Democratic Committee chairman with long ties to Cuomo, has denied the charges and claims he is the victim of a “political witch hunt.”

Questions remain.

Have Cuomo or any of his staff been served with federal subpoenas, or were they interviewed by law enforcement?

Did the governor or anyone on his staff retain a lawyer?

Has the campaign contemplated returning the $25,000 campaign contribution, linked to a Canadian businessman, that the government contends was laundered to hide its origin?

Cuomo took no questions from reporters when he visited Buffalo on Wednesday.

Richard Azzopardi, the governor’s spokesman, said that the state Democratic Party already issued a statement indicating cooperation with federal authorities. And he referred questions to the state Democratic Party.

Basil A. Smikle Jr., the party’s executive director, said he was unable to answer specific questions surrounding the Pigeon case.

“As previously stated, the campaign followed all laws, twice rejected what appeared to be unlawful donations and is assisting in this ongoing inquiry any way it can,” he said. “It would be inappropriate to comment further and refer all questions to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

Mayor Byron W. Brown, chairman of the state Democratic Party, also did not return a call seeking comment.

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