November 22, 2021 by Scott Atkinson
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP & WWNY) — A legislative investigation released Monday found “overwhelming evidence” that former Gov. Andrew Cuomo engaged in sexual harassment and ordered state workers to help produce his book during work hours.
The report also found that Cuomo’s executive chamber “substantially revised” a state report to exclude deaths of nursing home residents at hospitals to boost Cuomo’s reputation.
In March, the Assembly Judiciary Committee hired a Manhattan law firm, Davis Polk & Wardwell, to investigate whether there were grounds to impeach Cuomo.
Cuomo, a Democrat, resigned in August to avoid a likely impeachment trial in the wake of another investigation that found he sexually harassed at least 11 women. That investigation was led by two independent attorneys selected by state Attorney General Letitia James, also a Democrat.
The Assembly investigators said they reviewed that sexual harassment investigation, as well as about 600,00 pages of documents gathered by Davis Polk that ranged from photographs to emails to recordings of phone calls to video recordings.
Davis Polk investigators didn’t interview Cuomo, who instead provided written submissions.
Cuomo’s lawyer, Rita Glavin, said in an email “The Assembly’s report simply parrots the Attorney General’s flawed report, failing to engage with the many errors and omissions in the AG’s report and her one-sided, biased investigation.
“And, like the AG, the Assembly refused to provide the former Governor with access to all the evidence, again denying the Governor due process and a meaningful ability to respond. This is disappointing, but hardly surprising.”
Cuomo has denied that he ever intended to touch anyone inappropriately and said he never meant to make anyone uncomfortable with sexual remarks.
Cuomo has flat-out denied some allegations, including an executive assistant’s claim that he groped her breasts at the governor’s official residence, the Executive Mansion, last winter.
Cuomo has demanded that Assembly investigators hand over all their evidence against him, but Judiciary Committee members say that Cuomo isn’t entitled to that evidence.
“In the face of an impeachment trial, the former Governor chose to resign, not to contest the available evidence and confront witnesses in that legal forum,” the report released Monday said. “Having foregone that opportunity, he is not entitled to the production of any further evidence from this Committee.”
Cuomo often released statements pledging cooperation with the Assembly investigation, but investigators said he produced only limited documents over the course of almost six months.
“Nonetheless, at no time has the former Governor meaningfully complied with the Committee’s requests or cooperated with its investigation,” the report reads.
The report gives the most detailed account, so far, of state employee involvement in the production of Cuomo’s 2020 book,American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From The COVID-19 Pandemic.
The deal for the book was worth more than $5 million to Cuomo.
Contrary to Cuomo’s claims, the report says both junior and senior employees of the executive branch were deeply involved in producing the book, and doing it on state time.
“Evidence obtained in our investigation demonstrates that junior members of the Executive Chamber worked on the Book and that work was not voluntary. Junior staff members were asked by senior Executive Chamber officials to perform tasks that were related to the Book as part of their regular course of work,” according to the report.
Senior officials were even more involved.
“These senior officials attended meetings with agents and publishers, transcribed and drafted portions of the Book, coordinated the production and promotion of the Book, and participated in working sessions to review and finalize the Book,” according to the report.
“One senior Chamber official (identified by Spectrum News as Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide) in particular spent significant time working on the Book, including during normal work hours, and served as the key point person between former Governor Cuomo and the publisher throughout the entire process. That senior official sent or received over 1,000 emails regarding the Book, from July to December 2020. Another senior official sent or received over 300 emails regarding the Book in the same time frame. “
One senior official even complained “that work on the Book was compromising his ability to work on other COVID-related matters.”
The report notes there were several all-day sessions at the executive mansion at which the book was edited, attended by senior officials.
On the same day as the first session, the report notes, Cuomo told a press conference “You cannot use government for political exploitation” and “[n]owhere in your oath of office does it say you can use government resources to advance political purposes.”
A Cuomo spokesman said Monday in a statement that officials who worked on the book volunteered their time.
“To be clear, the people who volunteered to work on the book were people mentioned in the book and therefore they were involved to make sure the representations concerning them were accurate. Staff who volunteered took time off, evidencing that they were volunteering and not on state time. Any suggestion to the contrary is Assembly hype,” according to the statement.
The Assembly report takes a nuanced look at the issue of COVID deaths in the state’s nursing homes, concluding that Cuomo – despite claiming he had no involvement – edited a key state Department of Health report on the deaths, and that the number of nursing home fatalities reported publicly was reduced from 10,000 to 6,500 because Cuomo administration officials intervened.
But the report also acknowledges it found no proof that Cuomo’s nursing home policies produced more COVID deaths, and that there were multiple possible reasons why the lower figure was used.
Still, “The evidence obtained in our investigation indicates that the former Governor and his senior staff were not fully transparent with the public regarding the number of COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents,” the report notes.
On sexual harassment, the report largely restated what is already known, that Cuomo is accused of harassing a dozen women, and there is “overwhelming evidence” of that. Cuomo faces a misdemeanor charge of forcible touching after he allegedly fondled the breast of aide Brittany Commisso. The report focuses on the alleged harassment of Commisso and a female state trooper who was assigned to Cuomo, and notes that neither woman ever intended to come forward to tell their story.
The Assembly’s report, while important symbolically, will not lead to an impeachment of Cuomo as former President Donald Trump was impeached for the events of January 6 even though he was out of office.
The report takes the position that a former state official who resigned from office cannot be impeached.
There is a Republican proposal to change that.
“Senator (Dan) Stec has a bill that would allow for impeachment of someone who is out of office but had been a political figure – in this case, someone like Andrew Cuomo,” said Rob Ortt, leader of the Senate Republicans.
“And I would love to see that legislation advanced and passed, though I’m not gonna hold my breath at this point.”
Republicans saw Monday’s report as more proof Cuomo should never again be allowed anywhere near power.
“He was using his trusted loyal advisors, who should have been working on managing the pandemic, or should have been working on getting businesses back open or people back to school, and instead they were much more focused apparently on brandishing his image, no doubt, no doubt for a future political run,” said Ortt.
And north country congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who has been calling for Cuomo’s head for years, repeated that call Monday.
“Former Governor Cuomo and his staff must be prosecuted for using state resources to negotiate a multimillion-dollar book deal illegally at the taxpayers’ expense,” Stefanik said in a statement.
“Former Governor Cuomo also needs to be arrested and prosecuted for his criminal acts covering up the tragic deaths of our most vulnerable seniors in nursing homes.
“I have been calling for accountability from the beginning, but this criminal corrupt behavior has been brushed under the rug years by Democrats and the cesspool of Albany.
“It is time for this disgraceful chapter of New York’s history to be over, and I have been fighting for the truth all along, but Albany Democrats delayed in the release of this report. Additionally, Governor Hochul has failed to support the impeachment efforts of our Criminal Former Governor, rehired many of the same staff, and has been silent on providing accountability for the nursing home crisis. This makes her complicit.
“But the proof is apparent for all New Yorkers to see. Governor Cuomo needs to be arrested and prosecuted for criminal corruption. New Yorkers deserve better.”
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