Andrew Cuomo’s future as governor of New York is in doubt after the state attorney general released a report Tuesday that found he had sexually harassed 11 women, including nine current and former employees, in violation of state and federal law.
Here are some takeaways from the report and a look at how its findings may shape Cuomo’s fate.
Investigators Described 3 Previously Unreported Accusations
The 165-page report, released by New York state Attorney General Letitia James, gave corroborating evidence for eight accusers whose stories were already known, most of them current or former state employees. But it also detailed three previously unreported accounts of sexual harassment by the governor.
In one instance, Cuomo was said to have harassed an unnamed state trooper whom he had personally sought to hire onto his protective detail. She said that he had run his hand across her stomach when she held the door open for him at an event; had run his finger down her back in an elevator; and had asked her why she did not wear a dress, among other incidents.
In another incident, the governor was said to have run two fingers across the chest of an energy company employee, Virginia Limmiatis, and then brushed his hand in the area below her neck. And in the final unreported allegation, the governor was said to have grabbed the rear of an unnamed employee of a New York-state affiliated entity.(BEGIN OPTIONAL TRIM.)Cuomo did not address the new accusations in a prerecorded video statement where he denied most of the report’s serious findings, reiterating his contention that he had never touched anyone inappropriately. Rita Glavin, a lawyer for Cuomo, called the report “unfair” and “inaccurate.”
“The investigators have directed an utterly biased investigation and willfully ignored evidence inconsistent with the narrative they have sought to weave,” she said in a written response.
The Governor Stands Alone
When the first wave of accusations against the governor emerged, a chorus of Democratic politicians called for his ouster. But some of his closest supporters reserved judgment, including perhaps the most influential: President Joe Biden.
Before becoming president, Biden was one of Cuomo’s most reliable allies. At media events, he often hailed the governor’s work on infrastructure. Cuomo was an early supporter of Biden’s presidential campaign. The governor attended the wake for Biden’s son, Beau, and the president attended the wake for Cuomo’s father, Mario.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also avoided joining the initial rush of those urging the governor to resign.
Cuomo’s family ties to Pelosi date back to 1980, at least, when she and Mario Cuomo toured Italy after an earthquake there killed thousands. In 1984, Pelosi chaired the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, where Mario Cuomo delivered his famous Tale of Two Cities speech.
On Tuesday, both Pelosi and Biden broke with Cuomo and called on him to resign.
Cuomo seems disinclined to voluntarily relinquish power. But it is hard to govern without allies.(BEGIN OPTIONAL TRIM.)And as of Tuesday evening, Cuomo had few supporters left, aside from those in his employ. Both leaders of the state Legislature urged him to resign. So did every member of New York’s Democratic congressional delegation.
“He has zero partners at any level of government, including the top Democrat in the nation,” said Assembly member Ron Kim, one of the first Democrats to demand Cuomo’s resignation. “Right now we have an executive who is primarily concerned about saving himself.”
A Criminal Investigation
The report may leave Cuomo exposed to criminal charges, a point underscored by a disclosure that the Albany County district attorney was conducting a criminal investigation into the allegations.
In a statement Tuesday, the district attorney, David Soares, said that his office was reviewing the attorney general’s report in connection with an “ongoing criminal investigation,” and that it had requested investigative materials from James’ office. He also encouraged other victims to contact his office directly.
It was unclear when Soares had opened his investigation or exactly which behavior he was looking into. A spokesperson for his office, Cecilia Walsh, said only that the office was looking into “any allegations that rise to the level of criminal conduct.”
In addition, criminal charges related to sexual harassment require a high standard of proof and may be difficult for prosecutors to bring.
But the prospect of a charge, or charges, atop any lawsuits that Cuomo could face based on the details of the report will certainly complicate the governor’s bid for reelection next year and may compromise his ability to govern.
An Offensive Against the Victims and Investigators
The investigation also detailed a frantic effort by Cuomo and his team to dig up dirt on the women who accused him of sexual harassment, as well as on the lawyers probing the allegations.
On the same day that Lindsey Boylan became the first person to go public with her story last December, Cuomo’s aides sent reporters copies of confidential documents in her personnel file showing that colleagues had complained about her behavior, the investigation found.
A senior adviser, Richard Azzopardi, personally redacted the documents with correction fluid before sending them to reporters. Cuomo later drafted an op-ed that attacked Boylan and cited what he claimed were her interactions with other men; ultimately, he decided not to publish the piece.
Senior aides to the governor even pressured former employees to secretly record phone calls with Boylan and another accuser, identified in the report as Kaitlin, “potentially in the hopes of obtaining additional information to use against any women who might speak out,” the investigation found.
“I did not think it went well,” the governor’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, said of the effort, according to the report.
Cuomo and his allies not only targeted the women who accused him of harassment; they also went after the investigators.
On March 16, Steven Cohen, a former top aide to the governor, sent a text message to another former employee, saying he was being asked to spread opposition research about Joon Kim, one of the lawyers leading the investigation into Cuomo.
In his interview with investigators, Cohen said he did not recall being asked to do opposition research. Nonetheless, in the weeks leading up to Tuesday, Cuomo’s allies regularly attacked Kim as biased.
All Eyes on Carl Heastie
With Cuomo resisting resignation calls from the nation’s top three Democrats, as well as from every Democratic member of New York’s congressional delegation, one avenue remains for removing Cuomo from office: impeachment.
That puts the ball squarely in the court of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, whose legislative body is empowered to launch impeachment proceedings.
On Tuesday, Heastie met with Assembly members, who seemed virtually united in their desire to move forward with impeachment.
Before the release of Tuesday’s report, the Assembly had been conducting an investigation to determine if impeachment was an appropriate next step.
By Tuesday evening, Heastie was calling for Cuomo’s resignation and was promising to conclude the impeachment investigation “as quickly as possible.”
That suggests that impeachment could, in fact, be in the offing.
At this point, it would be “impossible” for the Assembly to do anything but impeach, according to Amy Paulin, an assembly member from Westchester.
“The governor must resign, and if he doesn’t resign, we in the Assembly need to move forward with impeachment proceedings,” Paulin said.
But according to someone familiar with the process, actually concluding the existing investigation could take as long as a month. By that point, the momentum to remove Cuomo from office may have dissipated.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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