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Cuomo Aide Corruption Trial

Joseph Percoco, right, a former top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, reacts while talking to reporters outside U.S. District court, Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in New York. Percoco was convicted on corruption charges Tuesday at a trial that further exposed the state capital's culture of backroom deal-making. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo described Joe Percoco as a brother. On Tuesday, his former top aide was convicted on two counts of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and one count of soliciting bribes. 

Cuomo didn't say much about the trial over the last several weeks. When asked about certain details exposed during the trial, he would relay his desire to respect the legal process but wouldn't delve into specifics about what was revealed. 

After a jury found Percoco guilty of bribery and fraud, Cuomo said he respects their decision. 

"While I am sad for Joe Percoco's young daughters who will have to deal with this pain, I echo the message of the verdict — there is no tolerance for any violation of the public trust," Cuomo said. "There is no higher calling than public service and integrity is paramount — principles that have guided my work during the last 40 years."

He added, "The verdict demonstrated that these ideals have been violated by someone I knew for a long time. That is personally painful; however, we must learn from what happened and put additional safeguards in place to secure the public trust. Anything less is unacceptable." 

While Cuomo wasn't accused of illegal conduct, there were negative details about his office revealed during the trial. One of the facts that came out during the trial was that Percoco maintained his presence at the governor's New York City office in 2014 even though he was serving as Cuomo's campaign manager.  

Cuomo's potential Republican foes have questioned why Cuomo allowed Percoco to continue working in a government office while he was running the governor's re-election campaign four years ago. 

"There should be a response," said state Sen. John DeFrancisco, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor. "That is a clear violation of the law and there should be an investigation." 

Percoco is facing up to 20 years in prison. He will likely appeal the verdict. 

For Cuomo, the corruption trial will impact his political future. Not only was there a personal connection to Percoco, but the trial also raised questions about the state's economic development policies. 

Before the trial, Cuomo faced criticism for how certain economic development projects were awarded state funding and for various initiatives he advocated for, such as the Start-Up NY program and millions spent on television ads that proclaimed the state open for business. 

With what came out during the trial, especially the link between political donations and state funding for economic development projects, Cuomo will be forced to defend that record. And Republicans will be waiting to pounce. 

However, Republicans may be the least of Cuomo's problems, at least in the short term. It appears likely Cynthia Nixon, an actress and activist best known for her role in "Sex and the City," will challenge Cuomo for the Democratic nomination. 

Nixon would be a serious primary opponent. She would need to boost her name recognition for a statewide electorate, but she should have no problem raising the funds needed to mount a competitive challenge. 

Cuomo has a large campaign war chest — more than $30 million, according to his latest financial report. He is a formidable incumbent. But the Percoco conviction and the information revealed during the trial will have an impact in the primary election. 

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