ALBANY, N.Y. — Tensions are boiling over as an embattled Gov. Andrew Cuomo openly questioned the integrity of investigators running state Attorney General Letitia James’ probe into sexual harassment allegations against him.
The governor grew combative Monday as he expressed “concerns as to the independence” of the attorneys tasked with reviewing claims of misconduct and predatory behavior made by nearly a dozen women, including current and former staffers.
“Look at who the independent investigators are,” Cuomo said during a COVID-19-focused event at Yankee Stadium. “Do a little history. Go to Google. Google the independent reviewers and tell me what you see.”
A pair of highly respected independent attorneys, Joon Kim and Anne Clark, were tasked by James’ office to run the investigation into Cuomo’s behavior after he reluctantly authorized a probe back in early March.
The governor is now questioning their motives and casting their work as some sort of political vendetta.
Kim is a former federal prosecutor who worked under former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara as his office investigated Cuomo for shuttering the short-lived ethics panel known as the Moreland Commission.
It’s not immediately clear what prompted Cuomo to change his tone regarding the probe and go on the offensive. However, he was interviewed by investigators a little over a week ago.
For months, Cuomo, facing calls for his resignation as scandal engulfed his administration, encouraged New Yorkers to reserve judgment until James’ office issues an as-yet-to-be released public report.
The 63-year-old Democrat has repeatedly denied ever touching anyone “inappropriately” and initially apologized for making comments that may have been “misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.”
He has since publicly questioned the motives of his accusers, likened calls for his resignation to “cancel culture” and even attempted to redefine sexual harassment in state law.
On Monday, he again insinuated that his version of events will exonerate him.
“Let the process continue. Let the facts come out. I’m very eager to get the facts to the people of this state,” he said. “And I think when they hear the actual facts of what happened and how the situation has been handled, I think they’re going to be shocked, shocked. Because at the end of the day, the truth, wins and facts win.”
The governor’s latest comments come a week after he sparred with the lawmaker leading the Assembly’s impeachment probe, which is separate from James’ investigation.
Assembly Judiciary Chairman Charles Lavine, D-Nassau, warned the governor last week about comments made by a staffer made about James, writing in a letter that such conduct “undermine(s) the investigation and send(s) profoundly negative signals to witnesses.”
Lawyer for the governor pushed back, arguing that “there is a clear difference between actionable retaliation and protected speech, and it is clear that the chairman doesn’t understand the difference.”
The Assembly impeachment probe is also being run by outside attorneys. The investigation has faced criticism due to the governor’s connections to Davis Polk, the firm hired by the chamber, and the slow pace of the probe.
In addition to the harassment claims, the Assembly is also looking into allegations that the governor illegally used staff to help him write and promote a pandemic-themed book last year.
Lawmakers are also investigating whether Cuomo helped family and friends get access to scarce coronavirus tests early on during the COVID crisis, the potential hiding of the true number of deaths in nursing homes, issues with the Mario Cuomo Bridge and whether the governor knew of any attempts to suppress or obstruct related investigations.
On Monday, Cuomo indicated that, despite his spat with Lavine, he has faith in the Assembly’s probe.
“The Assembly investigation is broader and has a broader mandate, and is independent,” he said.
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