Governor Andrew Cuomo cast doubt Monday on State Attorney General Letitia James’s probe of sexual harassment allegations made against the governor, accusing her investigators of having ulterior political motives and not being independent.
“I said I have concerns as to the independence of the reviewers, that’s what I’ve said,” said Cuomo at a July 26 press conference at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. “Is this all happening in a political system? Yes, that is undeniable.”
The governor remained cagey about specific concerns at his first public appearance since being questioned by investigators last weekend, but urged New Yorkers to look up who is conducting James’s review into several sexual harassment allegations against him by current and past staffers, claiming that New Yorkers will be “shocked.”
“I’m very eager to get the facts to the people of this state and I think when they hear the actual facts of what happened and how the situation has been handled, I think they’re going to be shocked — shocked,” he said. “Look at who the independent investigators are. Do a little history, go to Google, Google the independent reviewers and tell me what you see.”
While Cuomo didn’t name names, it’s likely he’s referencing Joon Kim — one of the two outside lawyers James hired to conduct the months-long investigation, along with prominent employment lawyer Anne Clark.
Kim was previously chief counsel to then-US Attorney Preet Bharara when his office investigated Cuomo’s decision to disband the anti-corruption panel known as the Moreland Commission in 2014, reported the New York Times.
He also became acting US Attorney for 10 months in 2017, when former President Donald Trump kicked Bharara out of office, and he helped prepare the prosecution of former Cuomo aide Joseph Percoco, who was found guilty of federal corruption charges in 2018.
It was the governor who initially asked James to launch an independent investigation, and in public appearances soon afterward he urged people to await its findings.
But more recently, as James’s team has started interviewing Cuomo and those in his inner circle, the state’s embattled chief executive has shifted his tone, with him and his aides questioning the effort entirely.
Cuomo faced investigators during an interview last weekend, and his communications team has in recent weeks tried to discredit James’s investigation as a political ploy, saying she is trying to use it for her rumored bid for governor next year.
“The continued leaks are more evidence of the transparent political motivation of the attorney general’s review,” said Cuomo’s communications director and senior adviser Rich Azzopardi in a past post on Twitter.
The statements echo accusations Azzopardi leveled at state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli after he in April requested James investigate if Cuomo used state resources when writing his book about he pandemic, landing him a $5.1 million publishing deal, which the AG is now also looking into for ethics violations.
The state Assembly’s Judicial Committee chairperson Charles Lavine (D–Long Island) at the time denounced Cuomo’s team’s statements as attempts to “demean” James, undermine her investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations, and even intimidate witnesses and cooperators.
The Assembly is conducting a separate investigation into the same issues as James along with a look at the safety of the Mario Cuomo Bridge.
Attorney General James’s office declined to comment.