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Cuomo continues to fight AG report that found he sexually harassed 11 women

Rita Glavin, Andrew Cuomo's attorney, speaking Oct. 20, 2021.
WAMC screenshot
Rita Glavin, Andrew Cuomo's attorney, speaking Oct. 20, 2021.

Former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who resigned from office nearly two months ago, is continuing to fight an August report by the state Attorney General that found he had sexually harassed 11 women. Cuomo’s lawyer, Rita Glavin, is demanding an independent review of the AG’s report that she says destroyed the former governor’s reputation.

Glavin is accusing AG Tish James of political bias against Cuomo and is demanding an independent review of the Attorney General’s report. She says James, who like Cuomo is a Democrat, interfered with the sexual harassment inquiry carried out by her office, and violated the terms of the referral that the former governor gave to the AG last spring to conduct the probe.

Glavin argues that the investigation should have been carried out solely by the two independent investigators chosen by the Attorney General.

Cuomo’s attorney sites remarks James gave during a speech in late September to Democrats in the Hudson Valley, where the AG described how she had personally spoken to the women that the report found that Cuomo sexually harassed.

Glavin says James, who has not ruled out a run for governor, was guided by a political agenda.

“She had a motive to draw every possible inference against the governor, who was a political rival and who planned to run for a fourth term,” said Glavin.

There’s nothing in the March 1 referral given by Cuomo to James that specifically prohibits the Attorney General from becoming involved in the investigation. James has repeatedly denied that she was motivated by any political aspirations. She spoke at a business group breakfast in late September.

“Mr. Cuomo has a lot to say on these matters, but he has never taken responsibility for his own conduct,” James said. “He has never held himself accountable for how his behavior affected our state government.”

Glavin is also asking James to drop another investigation into the former Governor’s $5 million book deal for a memoir about how Cuomo handled the COVID-19 pandemic. Glavin says that probe is also tainted, because the referral for the investigation was given by the state’s comptroller, Democrat Tom DiNapoli, who earlier this year was also contemplating a run for governor.

“That referral had politics written all over it,” Glavin said.

A spokesman for DiNapoli, Matt Sweeney, said in a statement that “the Comptroller has full confidence in the independence and integrity of the Attorney General and her investigation. He stands by his referral and believes the question of whether state resources were used on the book merits review.”

Cuomo is also facing a federal investigation of whether he and his top staff manipulated the reporting of the number of deaths of nursing home residents during the pandemic in order to boost sales of his book.

Glavin, who spoke via a livestream provided by the former governor’s campaign website, says she could not comment on whether Cuomo himself might have political aspirations, and might run in the June primary to seek his old job back.

“I don’t know the answer to that question,” Glavin said. “I’m his lawyer. I’m not his political consultant.”

The former governor recently sent a letter to supporters that read like a campaign rationale. After Glavin’s presentation, Cuomo’s campaign organization sent an email message to supporters titled “prosecutorial misconduct.” Cuomo has not spoken publicly since he resigned.

Glavin made her remarks as part of a 150-page submissionto the Attorney General. In it she also questions the credibility of some of the women that the AG found were victims of harassment by the former governor. The women have stood by their accounts.

Glavin contends her client did nothing wrong.

The Attorney General’s press secretary, Fabien Levy, responded to Glavin’s presentation, calling it a “baseless attack” by the former governor, who he says resigned to avoid impeachment proceedings begun by the state legislature.

“The most concerning part of today’s charade was the former governor’s attempt to stifle a legal criminal investigation into allegations that he used state resources for a book deal and personal profit,” Levy said. “We will not be bullied into shutting down this investigation.”

A spokesman for Cuomo, Rich Azzopardi, responded to the Attorney General’s press secretary’s statement, calling it a “deflection” and political “bluster.”

“The fact is she won’t answer questions because she can’t defend her politically motivated hit job nor her own admitted prosecutorial misconduct,” Azzopardi said in a statement. “New Yorkers will see right through this and — as recent polls suggest — maybe they already have.”

A Siena College poll released Tuesday found that in a hypothetical five way democratic primary for governor, the current governor, Kathy Hochul, who replaced Cuomo, leads with 31%. The survey found that if the other candidates were Cuomo and James, the former governor would get 17% of the vote, followed by James with 14%. The other two potential candidates, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio would get 7% and 6% of the electorate’s support.

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.