Michael R. by Sisak and Marina Villeneuve
NEW YORK (AP) — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo faced mounting pressure to resign Tuesday, including from President Joe Biden and other lifelong Democratic aides, after an investigation found he sexually assaulted nearly a dozen women. And retaliated against one of his accusers. .
“I think he should resign,” Biden told reporters on Tuesday, echoing the sentiments of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and New York’s US Sense. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, all Democrats.
The leader of the state assembly, which has the power to bring impeachment charges against Cuomo, said it was clear the governor could no longer hold office. Speaker Carl Hasty, a Democrat, said he would move to complete the impeachment inquiry “as soon as possible”.
The governor remained defiant, saying in a tape response to the findings that “the facts are very different from what has been portrayed” and that he “never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.”
A nearly five-month investigation overseen by New York Attorney General Letitia James and led by two outside attorneys concluded that 11 women — inside and outside the state government — who said Cuomo had touched them inappropriately, commented on their appearance. The comments about his sex life made suggestive or were telling the truth.
The accusers included an aide who said Cuomo groped her breast and her security detail at the governor’s mansion, a state soldier who said he moved his hand or fingers across her stomach and her back.
Anne Clarke, who led the investigation with former US Attorney Jun Kim, said the allegations were corroborated to varying degrees, involving other witnesses and contemporaneous text messages.
“These interviews and pieces of evidence revealed a deeply disturbing but clear picture: Cuomo has committed current and former state employees in violation of federal and state laws,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said at a news conference Tuesday. sexually assaulted.”
Investigators said several women said they feared reprisal if they reported the governor’s behavior. On at least one occasion, the investigation found, Cuomo’s employees took actions “with the intention of defaming and humiliating” — Lindsay Boylan, the first former employee publicly accused of wrongdoing — including confidential personnel. Leaking files and drafting a letter attacking his credibility. .
The findings of the investigation, detailed in a 165-page public report, add to pressure on the 63-year-old governor, who was widely hailed for his steady leadership during the darkest days of the COVID-19 crisis just a year ago, even as the That’s writing a book about it.
Since then, he has seen his standing with a smattering of harassment allegations, a separate, ongoing investigation into questions about whether state resources went into writing the book, and the discovery that his administration had taken care of nursing during the outbreak. The exact number of deaths at home was hidden.
The revelations, much of which were initially made public last winter, sparked a slew of calls for Cuomo’s resignation from several top elected Democrats in New York. Schumer and Gillibrand said the report only reinforces their call for resignation that they first made last March.
“No elected official is above the law. The people of New York deserve better leadership in the governor’s office. We believe that the Governor should resign.
While James concluded the investigation without referring the case to prosecutors for possible criminal charges, local officials could use its evidence and findings to mount cases of their own. Albany District Attorney David Soares said he would request materials from James’ office and welcome victims to contact his office.
The findings of the investigation are important, according to Hasty, to expedite the ongoing state assembly’s investigation into whether there are grounds to impeach Cuomo, which is raising funds for a possible fourth term. The assembly appointed its legal team to investigate the myriad allegations about harassment, his book, nursing homes and special access to COVID-19 testing.
Several of Cuomo’s accusers called for swift action, calling on the governor to step down immediately. Some Democratic and Republican state lawmakers joined him, along with former Cuomo aides such as county officials and leaders of left-leaning political groups.
Lieutenant Governor Cathy Hochul, who would succeed Cuomo if he was fired or resigned, called the behavior “repulsive and illegal behavior” detailed in the report.
In his taped response: Charlotte Bennett, who said the governor asked if he was open to sex with an older man after he lurked in her that he was the victim of sexual assault, and a woman he kissed at The New York Times reported an incident in the front page story – a wedding, Cuomo apologized to the two accusers. Cuomo said he is hiring an expert to improve sexual harassment training for state employees, including the governor.
But he dismissed the other allegations as fabricated and criticized the investigation process, saying it was full of “politics and bias”. He explained that he had been physically hugging people throughout his life, that his mother and father – former government Mario Cuomo – had done the same and that the gesture was meant to “express warmth”.
Cuomo’s attorney issued a written rebuttal to the findings of the investigation, arguing in most cases that serious allegations such as alleged groping did not occur, or that his actions were misunderstood.
“For those who are using this moment to gain political points or gain publicity or personal gains. I say they really defame legitimate sexual assault victims that the law was made to protect,” Cuomo said.
Bennett called the governor’s apology “meaningless”.
“If he was sorry, he would have stepped down. That’s how accountability works,” she told the Associated Press. “I don’t believe he’ll resign. I think it’s the speaker’s job to start impeachment proceedings now.” “
The report detailed for the first time that Cuomo had sexually assaulted a state soldier. In addition to touching the said soldier, Cuomo kissed him on the cheek, asked for his help in finding a girlfriend and asked why he didn’t wear a dress.
The report also included allegations from a woman working for an energy company who said Cuomo had touched her chest at an event. The woman said Cuomo ran his fingers over the letters on his shirt and read his company’s name aloud. Then he leaned over and said: “I’m going to say I see a spider on your shoulder,” and brushed his hand between her shoulder and breasts, the report said.
“These brave women stepped forward to speak the truth to power, and in doing so they expressed confidence in the belief that governors can be powerful, but the truth is more than that,” Kim said at the press conference.
Cuomo faced multiple charges last winter, starting with Boylan, who Cuomo kissed her on the lips after a meeting in his office and said “go out of your way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs Will happen.”
After Boylan went public, Cuomo’s employees issued a personnel memo to the media, revealing that he left the administration after being confronted about complaints about his employees being degraded and yelling. Boylan has said that the leak was “an attempt to defame me.”
In an 11-hour interview with investigators last month, Cuomo admitted to certain behaviors while denying other allegations, investigators said. For example, Clark said, she admitted to asking Bennett whether she had been involved with older men and that she might have kissed the State Trooper at a ceremony but denied touching him.
When asked about an allegation that he grabbed a woman’s breast at the executive mansion, Cuomo responded, according to the report: “I’d have to lose my mind to do that” to a woman he hardly knew. which had several staff members.
The investigation, which included interviews with 179 people, including the governor himself, also found that Cuomo’s administration was a hostile work environment “full of fear and intimidation.”
Cuomo always denied the inappropriate touching, but he initially said he was sorry if his dealings with women were “misconstrued as unwanted flirtation.” He has become more belligerent in recent months, saying he did nothing wrong.
He has also questioned the impartiality of the lawyers leading the investigation. Kim was involved in previous investigations into corruption by people in Cuomo’s administration.
New York state regulations state that sexual harassment includes unwanted conduct of a sexual nature—ranging from unwanted flirtation to sexual jokes—that creates an aggressive work environment, regardless of the perpetrator’s intent.
Cuomo backed a landmark 2019 state law that made it easier for sexual assault victims to prove their case in court. The alleged victims will no longer have to face the high levels of proving sexual harassment “serious and pervasive.”
Associated Press writer Jocelyn Noveck contributed to this report.