State Watch

Cuomo asks New York AG to appoint independent attorney to investigate sexual harassment claims

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office has asked the state’s attorney general and chief appeals judge to name an independent attorney to investigate allegations of sexual harassment against him.

The announcement came just minutes after Attorney General Letitia James determined on Sunday that a referral for an investigation into sexual misconduct claims by two former Cuomo aides must be made by the governor’s office and that he should make one “immediately.”

Beth Garvey, special counsel and senior adviser to the governor, said in a statement that Cuomo’s office has asked James and the Chief Judge Janet DiFiore of the New York Court of Appeals to name an independent attorney to investigate the matter.

“We will leave all decisions concerning the investigation to be made in the discretion of the independent counsel selected by the Attorney General and Chief Judge,” Garvey said in a statement.

In a separate statement, James said such an investigation should also include subpoena power.

“Allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously. There must be a truly independent investigation to thoroughly review these troubling allegations against the governor, and I stand ready to oversee that investigation and make any appointments necessary,” James said.

“Given state law, this can only be accomplished through an official referral from the governor’s office based on State Law (§ 63-8) and must include subpoena power. I urge the governor to make this referral immediately,” she added.

The statement by the governor’s office must be follow-up by a formal referral to begin an investigation.

Lindsey Boylan, a former aide to the governor, first alleged he had harassed her last year.

Last week, she made more detailed allegations in a Medium post, saying Cuomo made inappropriate remarks to her on his plane and kissed her without her consent. Cuomo has denied the allegations and produced a statement signed by several others his office said were on the same flight who said it did not happen.

On Saturday, a second former aide, Charlotte Bennett, also reported harassment, telling The New York Times that the governor made inappropriate advances on her early last year during the start of the pandemic in which New York was the U.S.’s top hotspot.

The allegations have prompted Republicans and Democrats to call for an independent investigation or for Cuomo to step down.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) has called for his resignation over both the allegations and his handling of coronavirus outbreaks in New York nursing homes.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) called on state lawmakers to revoke Cuomo’s emergency authority over the harassment allegations as well as claims that Cuomo’s office underreported nursing home deaths during the early weeks of the pandemic.

Assemblyman Ron Kim (D), who has alleged Cuomo threatened to “destroy” him over public criticism of the nursing home issue, called for Cuomo to resign “tonight. Not tomorrow. Tonight.”            

 

Also on Sunday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said there should be an “independent review” into the matter.

— Updated 1:49 p.m.

Tags Andrew Cuomo Bill de Blasio Elise Stefanik Jen Psaki Lindsey Boylan

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