Lawyers for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo remained defiant in the face of intensifying pressure on their client to resign, even as the three-term Democrat confronts possible criminal investigations in four New York counties and potential impeachment proceedings.
“I know the difference between putting together a case against a target versus doing independent fact-finding with an open mind,” said Cuomo lawyer Rita Glavin on Friday afternoon during a virtual press conference responding to a damning report by the state attorney general accusing Cuomo of sexually harassing 11 women and creating a “climate of fear” in his offices.
Glavin called a press conference on Friday alongside Paul Fishman of Arnold and Porter LLC and Mitra Hormozi of Walden Mocht and Haran LLP, who represent around 20 employees in Cuomo’s executive chamber to provide a more thorough defense of Cuomo and senior members of his administration. Cuomo has denied the sexual harassment claims and remains hunkered down in the Governor’s Mansion in Albany.
“This investigation was conducted in a manner to support a predetermined narrative,” said Glavin, who accused the investigators as acting as “prosecutors, judge and jury.”
The governor’s lawyers said the office wasn’t provided with copies of the underlying evidence or interview transcripts and weren’t given a chance to respond to the attorney general’s report before it was released this week.
Earlier on Friday, the Albany sheriff’s office confirmed that it had received a criminal complaint against Cuomo by a former staffer included in the attorney general’s report. According to the report, Cuomo reached under the blouse of the staffer and grabbed her breast while at the Executive Mansion. Cuomo’s office didn’t respond to reports of the complaint on Friday but a spokesman said it had informed the Albany police department of the groping accusation in March after the aide made claims that surfaced in the Albany Times-Union.
The governor’s attorneys were given until Aug. 13 to turn over any evidence or other materials to the Assembly Judiciary Committee, which has been investigating Cuomo over sexual harassment accusations and several other allegations of improper conduct.
The panel meets Monday to discuss the scope of a possible impeachment. Lawmakers have also asked the state attorney general’s office to forward any evidence related to its findings, released this week, that Cuomo broke state and federal harassment laws. The attorney general’s report said Cuomo, 63, groped a former staffer and gave unwanted kisses, hugs and touches to multiple women.
Cuomo and some of his aides also retaliated against at least one former employee for coming forward, Attorney General Letitia James said at a press conference Tuesday announcing the report.
Cuomo denied the findings of James’ report in a taped rebuttal Tuesday. “I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” he said. “That is just not who I am or who I have ever been.”
The governor also issued his own 85-page report challenging the allegations. Part of his defense was that the governor was touchy with all people, not just female staffers, according to the report, which was signed off by Glavin, his personal attorney. To illustrate that point, the report included 23 pages of photos of Cuomo and other politicians kissing and embracing various people, including President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
In her response, Glavin said the governor “was stunned” by the groping claim and that the incident never happened. She called the attorney general’s investigation “utterly biased” and said it ignored evidence submitted by the governor, including his testimony.
“He has never behaved in this manner and never would. It would be a pure act of insanity for the Governor—who is 63 years old and lives his life under a microscope—to grab an employee’s breast in the middle of the workday at his Mansion Office. This simply did not happen,” Glavin said in the report.
However, the governor’s response didn’t address all the incidents cited by the attorney general, including one of the most egregious allegations that Cuomo harassed a female state trooper assigned to his detail.
James’ report spurred new calls for Cuomo to resign, including from Biden, a turnaround in support for a politician who just last year was touted as a pandemic leader and a possible Democratic presidential candidate.
The James investigation spanned five months and examined 74,000 pieces of evidence, including emails, text messages and photographs. His conduct was not just “old-fashioned, affectionate behavior” but “unlawful,” said Anne Clark, one of the outside lawyers who worked on the report.
The harassment allegations, along with accusations that his administration covered up the reporting of nursing home Covid deaths, have severely damaged Cuomo’s reputation.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Friday found that seven out of 10 registered New York voters believe Cuomo should resign, with only a quarter saying he should not. That’s compared to a March poll shortly after lawmakers began calling for his resignation, where 43% said he should resign and 49% said he should not.
The most recent poll was conducted from August 4-5, after the attorney general’s report was released, and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points. Calls for his ouster cross party lines — 57% of Democrats and 88% of Republicans said he should resign — and the poll showed his all-time lowest job approval since taking office in 2011. Only 28% of voters approve of the job Cuomo is doing, compared to 72% in May 2020.
“New Yorkers of all stripes are sending a clear message to Governor Cuomo that it is time to step down from office,” said Quinnipiac University Polling analyst Mary Snow.