Cuomo to be questioned in sexual harassment investigation

AP General
Andrew Cuomo, Melissa DeRosa

FILE – In this Sept. 14, 2018 file photo, Gov. Andrew Cuomo listens during a news conference in New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to be interviewed by investigators with the state attorney general’s office who are looking into sexual harassment allegations as the probe nears its conclusion. The timing of the interview Saturday, July 17, 2021 in Albany was confirmed by two people familiar with the case who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to be interviewed Saturday as the state attorney general’s office winds down its investigation into sexual harassment and misconduct allegations that upended his national reputation and threatened his hold on power as he gears up to run for a fourth term next year.

The timing of the interview in Albany, the state’s capital, was confirmed Thursday to The Associated Press by two people familiar with the investigation. They were not authorized to speak publicly about the case and did so on condition of anonymity.

Investigators were always expected to speak with Cuomo, who said at the start of the probe in March that he would “fully cooperate.” Cuomo is also facing an impeachment inquiry in the state assembly.

Saturday’s interview signals that investigators are nearly done with their work, which has included interviews with the governor’s accusers, though they may need some time to tie up loose ends before a report is issued.

Several women have accused Cuomo, a Democrat, of unwanted kisses, touches and groping and inappropriate sexual remarks.

Cuomo initially apologized and said that he “learned an important lesson” about his behavior around women, though he’s since denied that he did anything wrong and questioned the motivations of accusers and fellow Democrats who’ve called for his resignation.

Cuomo, in office since 2011, has rebuffed calls to step aside overthe allegations.

Cuomo’s popularity has dipped this year: about 62% of voters said Cuomo should resign or not seek re-election in a late June poll by Siena College. Still, supporters point out that 61% of Democrats in that poll said they have a favorable opinion of him.

A message seeking comment was left with Cuomo’s lawyer, Rita Glavin. A Cuomo spokesperson said Thursday he had no comment. The state attorney general’s office declined comment.

“We have said repeatedly that the governor doesn’t want to comment on this review until he has cooperated, but the continued leaks are more evidence of the transparent political motivation of the attorney general’s review,” Cuomo senior advisor Richard Azzopardi said.

The scheduled interview with Cuomo was reported first by The New York Times.

Former aide Lindsey Boylan accuses Cuomo of having harassed her throughout her employment and said he once suggested a game of strip poker aboard his state-owned jet.

Another former aide, Charlotte Bennett, said Cuomo once asked her if she ever had sex with older men. Bennett’s lawyer, Debra Katz, said Bennett met via Zoom for more than four hours with investigators and also provided them with 120 pages of records to corroborate her accusations.

A message seeking comment was left with Katz and lawyers for Boylan and another Cuomo accuser, aide Alyssa McGrath.

The investigation into the allegations against Cuomo is being overseen by the state’s independently elected attorney general, Letitia James, who named former federal prosecutor Joon Kim and employment discrimination attorney Anne Clark to conduct the probe and document its findings in a public report.

Azzopardi’s statement Thursday was at least the second time that Cuomo’s top spokesperson has claimed James, also a Democrat, and her probe were politically motivated. Azzopardi didn’t provide evidence Thursday that the attorney general had leaked information.

In April, Azzopardi blasted James for confirming her office was also investigating whether Cuomo broke the law by having staff help write and promote his recent memoir, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the Covid-19 Pandemic.”

“Both the comptroller and the attorney general have spoken to people about running for governor and it is unethical to wield criminal referral authority to further political self-interest‎,” Azzopardi said at the time.

Some of Cuomo’s top allies in the state Legislature have called on the public to await the results of James’ investigation and not to undermine her integrity.

Sen. Gustavo Rivera, a Bronx Democrat, said he trusts the independent investigators selected by James, and said “their credibility and professionalism can’t be questioned.”

“There was a sense from people early on that because the governor was so instrumental in helping her become AG that she would then become responsive to his political needs,” Rivera, Senate health committee chair, said. “Now she’s proven over and over again that she’s responsible to the people of the state of New York.”

Manhattan Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, Democrat and Assembly health committee chair, agreed: “Tish James is not going to let anyone undermine her.”

Sen. John Liu, majority assistant whip, called Azzopardi’s statement the “typical Cuomo playbook.”

“Obviously, Cuomo’s trying to undermine the AG,” Liu said.

“Those kinds of comments, trying to run interference, trying to deflect, trying to implicate, at least politically — my read of it is that folks in the governor’s circle including the governor are at least nervous and at most running terrified,” said Liu, a Queens Democrat who, like Gottfried and Rivera, has called on Cuomo to resign.

This year’s legislative session has concluded, but lawmakers could return later in the summer or fall if the probe winds up.

“I think Tish James is being as thorough as she can, knowing that no matter what she will be accused of politics,” Liu said.

The state Assembly’s judiciary committee has launched its own probe into whether there are grounds to impeach the governor on issues from sexual misconduct to his administration’s reporting of COVID-19 deaths among nursing homer residents.

It’s also unclear when the Assembly investigation will wrap up, but it’s likely it’ll be after James’ investigation concludes. Boylan has said she only wants to speak with investigators in the attorney general’s probe.

Liu said the AG’s report and recommendations will “carry a great deal of weight” with lawmakers.

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Balsamo reported from Washington, D.C. Sisak reported from Port St. Lucie, Florida.

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