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Transcripts, evidence from Cuomo investigation released

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
NYS screencap
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Over an 11-hour interview with investigators last July, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo defiantly denied allegations he sexually harassed women and took a confrontational tone with the lawyers questioning him, accusing one of them of being out to get him, according to a transcript released Wednesday.

In separate interviews conducted with the same investigators over two months, the women accusing Cuomo of misconduct laid out their horror stories of working for a boss who made comments about women's looks, asked questions about sex and gave inappropriate touches and kisses.

New York Attorney General Letitia James released hundreds of pages of transcripts of interviews conducted by two independent lawyers, hired by her office, during their monthslong probe of sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo.

The transcripts covered interviews done with 10 of the women who accused Cuomo of misconduct, plus the interview that Cuomo himself gave on July 17.

Most of the allegations, and Cuomo's defenses, have been aired publicly before in interviews, news conferences and a report published by James' office in August that sparked public outrage and pushed Cuomo to resign from office. But the transcripts offer a new level of detail on the allegations against the Democrat and Cuomo's confrontational interview with the investigators.

During his lengthy interrogation, Cuomo insisted he was careful in how he behaved around women and said several of his accusers had misrepresented what happened. He also bristled at a groping allegation by an aide, Brittany Commisso, who said the Democrat had pulled her toward him and grabbed her breast in the governor's mansion.

Cuomo, 63, said it would be an “not even feasible” for him to have done that, especially since he believed that his conduct was constantly under scrutiny by enemies, including one of the lawyers then investigating him, former acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim.

“You’ve investigated me for six years," Cuomo told Kim, referring to corruption investigations conducted by federal prosecutors during Kim's tenure, including one that sent one of Cuomo's close friends to prison. “I would have to lose my mind to do some — such a thing. It would be an act of insanity to touch a woman’s breast and make myself vulnerable to a woman for such an accusation."

“Numerous people have tried to set me up,” Cuomo said. “I’m always wary of people. I have phenomenal precautions. It would be an act of insanity.”

The Albany County sheriff’s office filed a criminal complaint against Cuomo over Commisso's groping allegation late last month.

In her interview with investigators, Commisso said that although working in the governor's office was a “dream job," Cuomo made quips about her appearance, called her “honey" and asked her about her sex life. She said when she wore a dress rather than pants to work, the governor said it was “about time that you showed some leg.”

She also described the alleged assault at the governor's mansion, saying that even as she pushed Cuomo away, she worried she would be the one who got in trouble if she slapped him or made a scene.

“I would be taken away by the state police officers and I would be the one that would get in trouble and I would be the one to lose my job, not him,” she said.

Cuomo announced his resignation on Aug. 10, a week after James released a report concluding that Cuomo had sexually harassed at least 11 women.

Investigators said the then-governor had kissed and touched multiple women without their consent, made inappropriate remarks about their looks and created a work environment “rife with fear and intimidation.”

Cuomo denied harassing any of the women, saying that his behavior, while sometimes “too familiar,” had been used against him in a political environment where “rashness has replaced reasonableness.”

The public airing of harassment complaints began in December 2020 when onetime Cuomo aide Lindsey Boylan accused the governor of sexually harassing her “for years” in a series of tweets.

Other accusers cited in the report included a state trooper assigned to Cuomo’s detail and an energy company worker who said Cuomo ran his fingers on the lettering that ran across the chest of her shirt when they met in a rope line in 2017.

“Finally — after three months for stalling — Tish James has been forced to release transcripts as more and more people are questioning her shoddy and politically motivated report," said Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi Wednesday evening. "However, these transcripts include questionable redactions, and raise even more questions about key omissions made during this slanted process, which reeks of prosecutorial misconduct."

“The Attorney General’s slow-rolling and selective disclosure to the world now of the 41 transcribed interviews (out of the 179 people interviewed and 74,000 documents collected) is obvious: The AG wants to prejudice people against the Governor while the criminal charge unilaterally initiated by Sheriff Apple is pending, and distract from the AG’s misleading and unreliable report," said Cuomo attorney Rita Glavin in a later statement. "The Attorney General deliberately harms a pending case by broadcasting to each witness what other witnesses have testified to, and spreading false and salacious hearsay and rumors. No legitimate law enforcement officer acts like this in a pending case. Disturbingly, this has never been about fairness or due process.”

Hours after James posted the documents Wednesday, New York State Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Lavine — who had been overseeing the Cuomo impeachment probe — said documents and evidence from the investigation will be available next week for committee members to review. Lavine says the investigation included interviews with 165 witnesses and the review of hundreds of thousands of documents, recordings, messages, memos, transcripts and more.