Biden says Cuomo should resign amid sexual harassment probe
Tuesday brought mounting pressure from President Joe Biden to resign, including from President Andrew Cuomo and other onetime Democratic allies, after an investigation found he sexually harassed nearly a dozen women and work to retaliate against one of his accusers.
I think he should resign, Biden told reporters Tuesday echoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and US-Trump Sens. nee Biden's answer to the Legislature. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, all Democrats.
The leader of the state assembly, who has the power to bring impeachment charges, said it was clear Cuomo could no longer be in office. Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, said that he would move to complete an impeachment inquiry 'as quickly as possible.
Cuomo remained defiant, saying in a taped response to the findings that 'the facts are much different than what has been portrayed' and that he 'never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.
In a telephone conversation with Heastie, Cuomo said he wouldn't leave office and told the speaker he needed to work fellow Democrats and garner enough votes to stop an impeachment, according to a person familiar with the conversation.
But Heastie said he could not do that, said the person, who could not publicly discuss details of the private conversation and spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The almost five-month, non-criminal investigation led by New York's attorney general and directed by two outside lawyers, concluded that 11 women telling the truth when they reflected Cuomo had touched them inappropriately, commented on their appearance or made suggestive comments about their sex lives.
Those accusers included an aide who said Cuomo ran his breast at the governor's mansion, and a state trooper on his security detail who said he groped her stomach and her back.
Joon Kim, who led the investigation with former U.S. Attorney Anne Clark, said the allegations had varying degrees of corroboration, including other witnesses and contemporaneous texts messages. Investigators interviewed 179 people, including the governor himself.
'These interviews and bits of evidence revealed a disturbing yet clear picture: Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed federal and state employees in violation of federal laws, said Letitia James at a press conference on Tuesday.
Many of the women said they feared retaliation if they reported Cuomo's behavior, investigators said, describing his administration as a hostile workplace rife with fear and intimidation.
On one occasion, the probe found that Cuomo's staff took action 'intended to discredit and disparage' an accuser - Lindsey Boylan, former employee, to publicly accuse him of wrongdoing — including leaking confidential personnel files and drafting a letter attacking her credibility.
The investigation's findings, detailed in a 165-page public report, turn up the pressure on the 63 year-old governor who was widely known for his steady leadership during the darkest days of COVID 19 crisis just a year ago.
Since then, he's seen his standing crumble with a drumbeat of harassment allegations, questions in a separate, ongoing inquiry into whether state resources went into writing the book, and the discovery that his administration hidden the true number of nursing home deaths during the pandemic.
Schumer and Gillibrand said Tuesday's report only reinforces the calls they and other New York Democrats made to Cuomo to resign following the bulk of the allegations being made public last winter.
'The elected officer is above the law. We continue to believe the Governor should resign, they said in a joint statement.
The investigation was completed when local authorities referred the case to prosecutors for possible criminal charges, while James could use its evidence and findings to mount cases. District Attorney James Ford said he would request materials from David Soares' office and welcomed victims to contact him.
Heastie said the investigation's findings are crucial to expediting the ongoing state Assembly inquiry into whether there is any grounds for impeachment Cuomo, who has raised money for a potential fourth term. The Assembly hired its own legal team to investigate myriad allegations concerning harassment, his book, nursing homes and special access to COVID - 19 testing.
In his taped response, Cuomo apologized to two accusers: Charlotte Bennett, who said the governor asked if she was open to sex with an older man after she confided that she had been a sexual assault victim, and a woman he kissed at a wedding. Cuomo said he had hired an expert to reform sexual harassment training for state employees, including the governor.
He denied other allegations as fabricated and lashed out at the investigative process, saying it was fueled by Politics and Bias. He explained that he's physically embraced people his whole life, that his mother and father — former Gov. Frankenfelder — were still like them. Mario Cuomo did the same and that the gesture was meant to "convey warmth."
Cuomo's lawyer issued a written counterclaim to the investigation findings, arguing that in most cases serious allegations, like the alleged groping, didn't happen or that his actions were misconstrued.
'For those who are using this moment to score political points or seek publicity or personal gain. I say they actually discredit legitimate sexual harassment victims that the law was intended to protect, Cuomo said.
If he were sorry, he'd step down. That's how accountability works, she told the AP. Why won't he resign? I think it is the speaker's job now to start impeachment proceedings.
The report detailed, for the first time, the allegations regarding the state trooper. It said that in addition to touching her, Cuomo kissed her on the cheek, asked for her help in finding a girlfriend and asked why she didn't wear dress.
The report also included an allegation from a woman working for an energy company who said Cuomo touched her chest at an event, saying his fingers across the lettering on her shirt and reading the name of her company aloud. According to the report, he then leaned in and told her: 'I'm going to say I see a spider on my shoulder' before brushing his hand between her shoulder and breasts.
'These brave women spoke truth to power and, in doing so, expressed faith in the belief that although the governor may be powerful, the truth is even more so, Kim told reporters.
Boylan faced multiple claims, starting with Cuomo who says Cuomo kissed her on the lips after a meeting in his office and 'would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs.
After Boylan went public Cuomo's staff released personnel memos to the media, revealed that she left the administration after being confronted about complaints she belittled and yelled at her staff. Boylan says the leak was 'an effort to smear me'.
In an 11 hour interview with investigators last month, Cuomo delineated certain behaviors while denied other allegations, investigators said. Bennett said for example, he conceded asking Clark whether she had ever seen older men and said he might have kissed the state trooper at an event but denied touching her.
Asked about an allegation that he grabbed a woman's breast at the executive mansion, Cuomo responded: I would have to lose my mind to say such a thing' to a woman hardly knew, with multiple staff members around.
Cuomo never denied unwanted touching, but initially said he was sorry if his behavior with women was misinterpreted as inappropriate flirtation. He gets more combative in recent months, saying he did nothing wrong and questioning the neutrality of lawyers leading the probe. Cuomo was involved in previous inquiries into corruption by people in Kim administration.
New York State Laws define sexual harassment to include unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature -- from unwelcome flirtation to sexual jokes — that creates an offensive work environment without a perpetrator's intent.
Cuomo championed a landmark 2019 state law that would make it easier for sexual harassment victims to prove their case in court. Alleles no longer have to meet the high bar of proving sexual harassment is'severe and pervasive'.