A lawyer representing one of the women accusing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment says the Democrat leader is meddling in a state attorney general investigation into the scandal.
Lawyer Debra Katz, who represents former Cuomo staffer Charlotte Bennett, wrote a letter to New York Attorney General Letitia James in which she sharply criticized an Times Union report alleging that the Cuomo administration provided “in-house attorneys” to staffers ahead of possible questioning by independent investigators under James.
“It is my understanding that these attorneys are also ‘debriefing’ staffers after their interviews with investigators,” Katz wrote. “This is highly improper and we object in the strongest possible terms to this obvious interference with what you have stated would be a ‘thorough and independent’ investigation.”
She then warned that Cuomo’s team “will almost certainly deter those with relevant information” regarding Bennett’s accusations against the governor and requested that the attorney general James order him “to cease this highly improper practice.”
“We believe this offer of counsel constitutes a deliberate attempt by the Governor to interfere with your office’s investigation,” the lawyer added. “Otherwise, this unauthorized parallel investigation will continue to undermine the legitimacy of the thorough, independent investigation being conducted by your office.”
Bennett, who served as a health policy adviser in Cuomo until November, told the New York Times that the governor asked her inappropriate questions about her sex life, including whether she ever had sexual relations with older men.
As of Monday, seven women, some current and former Cuomo aides, have accused the governor of harassment and unwanted touching. The allegations set off a firestorm of calls for Cuomo to resign, including from leading New York Democrats such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler.
“Confronting and overcoming the Covid [coronavirus] crisis requires sure and steady leadership. We commend the brave actions of the individuals who have come forward with serious allegations of abuse and misconduct. Due to the multiple, credible sexual harassment and misconduct allegations, it is clear that Governor Cuomo has lost the confidence of his governing partners and the people of New York. Governor Cuomo should resign,” Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said in a recent statement.
Despite being marred in scandal, Cuomo has repeatedly rejected calls to step down and has instead called for James’ investigation to run its course.
“I never harassed anyone, I never assaulted anyone, I never abused anyone,” Cuomo has said. “I’m not going to resign. I was not elected by the politicians, I was elected by the people.”
Making matters worse, Cuomo also faces a federal investigation over allegations that his administration covered up the number of deaths in nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating whether aides to Cuomo provided false data regarding the number of deaths such facilities, according to the New York Times.