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Cuomo's Views Of AG Probe Grow Negative

File photo: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
Pat Bradley
File photo: Ex-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

It’s been more than two months since New York Attorney General Tish James began investigating multiple allegations of sexual harassment against Governor Andrew Cuomo. The governor, who at first expressed confidence in his fellow Democrat’s ability to be objective, has increasingly questioned her motives.  When the allegations, which include incidents of unwanted kisses, hugging, and, in one instance, groping under an aide’s blouse, first became known, the governor was contrite. He denied any wrongdoing, but he said in early March that he did not mean for any of his actions to harm anyone. 

“I truly and deeply apologize for it,” Cuomo said on March 3. “I feel awful about it.”  

The governor, after some initial resistance, gave AG James a referral to conduct an investigation. He seemed to express confidence in the fairness of the probe, and urged New Yorkers to withhold judgment until its outcome. 

“I will fully cooperate with it, and then you will have the facts,” Cuomo said. “And make a decision when you know the facts.”  

But not long afterward, Cuomo and his aides started calling James’ motives into question. After the AG received a referral from the State Comptroller to expand her investigation into allegations that Cuomo improperly used staff to help him write and promote a memoir, senior advisor Rich Azzopardi told the New York Times that “both the comptroller and the attorney general have spoken to people about running for governor.” Azzopardi said it was “unethical” to wield criminal referral authority to further their political self-interest?. Cuomo says staff volunteered to help him with his book.  

In recent weeks, when the governor is asked by reporters about the probe, his answers often include a reference to the AG’s possible political motivations. 

“I don’t want to comment on the ongoing review and I think everybody is aware of politics in Albany and political realities,” Cuomo said on May 10.   

Cuomo, who earlier asked everyone not to form opinions about the allegations against him until the probe is finished, has now begun making his own predictions about the report s outcome.   

In late April, he was asked if he would resign or accept disciplinary measures if the AG concludes that the governor violated the state’s sexual harassment laws. Cuomo said he thinks he will be exonerated.  

“The report can’t say anything different because I didn’t do anything wrong,” Cuomo said on April 26.  

He’s made increasingly clear that he has no intention of leaving office. 

“I’m not resigning,” he said. “And I’m doing my job every day.”

Cuomo’s remarks led Debra Katz, the attorney for one of his accusers, Charlotte Bennett, to compare the governor’s actions to those of former President Donald Trump, who often dismissed allegations against him as a political “witch hunt.” 

Katz, in a statement, says Cuomo’s “newfound allegations of political motivation” are a “dangerous and transparent effort to undermine public confidence in the investigation” in order to try to save his political career. 

Katz says if the probe finds Cuomo violated state laws, then he must resign, or the legislature must act to remove him from office.  

There’s no indication when James might be finished with the investigation.   

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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