ALBANY, NY >> New York attorney general Letitia James said Friday that an ongoing investigation into Governor Andrew Cuomo is “coming to a close” and said she had ignored criticism from his top aide that the investigation was politically motivated.
James told reporters the ongoing investigation into whether the governor had sexually molested women, including female employees, was “very thorough and comprehensive”. Her office is also looking to see if Cuomo illegally used government funds to write and promote his COVID-19 leadership book, which the Democrat is said to earn over $ 5 million for.
“I will not respond to personal attacks on me and / or my office,” James said in her New York City office on Friday. “I have over 1,800 professional employees. We come to work every day and focus on the law and the facts and politics stand at the door. “I obviously ignore everything else.”
Cuomo is accused of abusing his power by inappropriately touching and sexually harassing women who worked with him or met him elsewhere. Accusations range from fumbling under a woman’s shirt and planting unwanted kisses to asking unwanted personal questions about sex and dating – including whether an employee would have sex with an older man.
James launched the sexual harassment investigation in early March after Cuomo first tried to decide who would lead the investigation into the allegations. Cuomo then allowed James to choose two independent lawyers to lead them instead.
For weeks, Cuomo and his supporters in state law have urged the public to await the results of James’ investigation before judging the governor.
By mid-April, state auditor Tom DiNapoli issued a letter authorizing James to open a criminal investigation into Cuomo’s book business as media reports of aides helping with drafting and printing manuscripts. Her office later confirmed an “ongoing investigation”.
Cuomo’s spokesman and senior adviser, Rich Azzopardi, has blown DiNapoli’s letter, claiming that James and DiNapoli, both Democrats, have expressed an interest in ousting Cuomo.
“This is the worst policy in Albany. Both the comptroller and the attorney general have been talking to people about running for governor and it is unethical to use referral powers to promote political self-interest,” said Azzopardi.
He said government officials working on the project volunteered without the use of government funds.
Cuomo has increasingly argued that politics is the main driver of criticism of him, questioning the motives of the prosecutors.
It’s a contrast to Cuomo’s original approach in late February when he apologized for “interactions” that made someone uncomfortable and said he had no intention of offending anyone with “jokes” or comments.
“I admit that some of the things I said have been misunderstood as unwanted flirtation,” he said, later adding, “I never intended to offend or cause harm to anyone.”
Cuomo has claimed he never touched or sexually molested anyone inappropriately, and no one told him if he was uncomfortable. He said he was an old-school Italian-American politician with a habit of greeting people with hugs and kisses, while acknowledging that “sensitivities” have changed.
By mid-March, a majority of the state-democratic legislators called on Cuomo to resign.
The federal prosecutor’s office is also investigating the governor, among other things because of his government’s month-long decision to keep the nursing home’s COVID-19 data secret.
And the State Assembly Judiciary Committee has launched a full investigation into whether there are grounds to indict Cuomo on allegations ranging from sexual harassment to bookshops to COVID-19 data from the nursing home, and whether the governor’s family has been given improper access on COVID-19 tests last spring when tests were scarce.
In recent weeks, however, calls for Cuomo’s resignation have eased.
And some Democratic lawmakers calling on him to resign have appeared alongside Cuomo and praised his leadership in recent media appearances.
It is unclear when the investigation will be completed. James’ office is expected to publish a final report of its findings to the public.
The governor has said he didn’t do anything wrong and he expects the report to prove it.
Cuomo campaigned for a landmark 2019 law that made it easier for victims of sexual harassment to prove their case in court. Alleged victims no longer have to meet the high bar to prove that sexual harassment is “serious and ubiquitous”.
Meanwhile, New York State regulations state that sexual harassment includes unsolicited behavior of a sexual nature – from unwanted flirting to sexual jokes – that creates an offensive work environment regardless of the intent of an offender.