NY attorney general receives authority to launch independent Cuomo investigation
New York Attorney General Leticia James said today that she now has the authority to launch an independent investigation into allegations of sexual harassment claims made against Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers in Albany are taking aim at Cuomo, who is fresh off the criticism of his handling of COVID-related nursing home deaths.
The harassment claims come from two former female staffers. In the latest, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett told the New York Times that Cuomo asked her inappropriate questions and said it was clear to her that he wanted to sleep with her.
The New York Times also reported Monday that a third woman came forward and accused Cuomo of an unwanted advance at a 2019 wedding reception.
Cuomo issued a statement late Sunday that said, "I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal … I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation."
Cuomo also faces criticism for not immediately allowing James to launch an investigation. Instead, he initially recommended certain people to look into the claims of his former staffers.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D - Long Beach) is proposing changes to a decades-old state law that requires the state attorney general to, in a sense, get permission from the governor to investigate the governor.
"When the person being investigated is the governor, it's definitely awkward if not illogical to have a bill that requires you to ask the governor for that referral,” says Sen. Kaminsky. "So what my law would do is just say, just like any local DA, the AG's office can bring a criminal case where there's evidence to do so."
While stopping short of calling on Cuomo to step aside, Assemblyman Ed Ra (R -Franklin Square) says it remains to be seen whether Cuomo survives this episode politically.
"It feels a little bit like when Speaker Silver was on his last legs, the canceling of session, the not knowing what to do,” says Ra. "I don't necessarily feel like a resignation is imminent or something like that, but the governor is very much on the ropes."