Cuomo lawyers push back on AG report

Photo by Dean Moses

Lawyers representing Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Executive Chamber forcefully pushed back Friday against the damning report from State Attorney General Letitia James substantiating sexual harassment charges against him and putting his political future in jeopardy.

The attorneys, one representing Cuomo himself and paid for from his campaign account, and two others representing the Chamber and paid on the taxpayers’ dime, claimed that the AG’s report “ambushed” the governor and was designed to reach a predetermined conclusion, cast aspersions on the impartiality of the investigators, and posited that the stories told by two of the governor’s accusers could not have occurred. They also argued that the investigation and unveiling of the report were not fair to Cuomo, as they had not been given a copy in advance.

“I know the difference between putting together a case against a target vs doing independent fact-finding with an open mind,” said Cuomo attorney Rita Glavin, after technical difficulties interrupted the press conference and her remarks. “There has been no open-minded fact-finding here…this investigation was conducted in a manner to support a predetermined narrative.”

Glavin and Executive Chamber counsel Paul Fishman said that they and the governor had not been provided with the report prior to its release, and that they still did not have transcripts of the interviews investigators conducted, which would hobble their legal defense.

Glavin sought to discredit the testimony of two accusers with some of the most serious allegations against the governor: “Executive Assistant #1,” who claimed he groped her breast, and Lindsey Boylan, who says the governor kissed her nonconsensually and asked her to play strip poker.

The attorney claimed that emails sent by Executive Assistant #1 on November 16, 2020, the date the AG’s report identifies as the most likely that the assault took place, disprove the possibility that it could have occurred. She said that rather than being summoned to assist the governor with his phone, as the anonymous aide claimed, she was actually working on a speech at the Executive Mansion that day, when the governor was engaged in phone calls with other governors and the Vice President about COVID-19.

The aide’s emails even showed her performing functionary tasks of her job and yukking it up with colleagues that day, Glavin said, discussing how happy she was that “Carol just came through with some cheese and crackers.”

“Carol is a member of the mansion staff,” Glavin said. “And where Carol serves cheese and crackers is not on the second floor, the governor’s offices. It’s on the first floor.”

Glavin also disputed Executive Assistant #1’s claim that the governor slammed the door to his office shut before groping her, saying that the age of the building meant the slam would have caused a loud creaking noise that would be heard by other staffers, and yet no corroboration had been produced about that noise.

The November 16 date was double-checked by Cuomo’s attorneys, who found that that was the only day Executive Assistant #1 was at the mansion that month. However, a footnote in the AG’s report says the aide didn’t remember the exact date of the incident, but that she had been tasked with taking a photograph of a document that day, and produced a photograph to investigators dated November 16. Brendan Lyons of the Albany Times-Union, which first published Executive Assistant #1’s allegations, disputed Glavin’s arguments on Twitter.

Executive Assistant #1 has filed a criminal complaint against the governor with the Albany Sheriff’s office, the New York Post reported Friday. The Albany District Attorney is investigating.

Glavin then turned her attention to Boylan, the first person to go on record with accusations of harassment against the governor, arguing that Boylan’s assertion that she had left the Executive Chamber after being sexually harassed was inaccurate. She said that Boylan had left after having numerous complaints lodged against her, and after leaving, appealed both to the governor’s staff and the governor himself for her job back, which was declined.

She also rehashed an earlier argument from the governor’s team, that none of the other people on a government plane with Boylan and Cuomo heard the governor ask Boylan to play strip poker, and posited that Boylan had “threatened” her boss, Empire State Development head Howard Zemsky, into changing his story. Glavin also heavily implied that Boylan was using her allegations to prop up her campaign for Manhattan Borough President, which she ultimately lost.

In a tweet, her first public comment since the AG’s report was unveiled, Boylan said “we will not be intimidated.”

Glavin did not respond in her remarks to any of the other allegations detailed in the report, though made comments about the state trooper Cuomo is alleged to have groped when asked by reporters. She said that Cuomo would soon address the trooper allegation himself, though she did say that the trooper was on Cuomo’s detail at least up until the report came out and may still be on it. She also shed light on why Cuomo hired her onto his detail in the first place.

“He had been complaining about the lack of diversity on his detail for some period of time. He has about 60 troopers that are on his detail, there’s only a handful of women…This had bothered him for some period of time and he voiced it.”

Asked for a follow-up, Glavin said that “he liked how she maintained eye contact, he liked how she was assertive with him in the conversation.”

Glavin also cast aspersions upon Joon Kim, the former federal prosecutor who was one of two investigators tapped by James to lead the probe, saying that his past history investigating Cuomo’s closing of the Moreland Commission and of top aide Joe Percoco meant that he could not be impartial, analogizing Kim to Fishman and his own investigations into former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie when he served as US Attorney in the Garden State.

“There is no question in my mind that he formed impressions about how the chamber was run,” Glavin said. “And you can look for yourselves at some of the comments that Mr. Kim and Mr. Bharara, his boss, made about Governor Cuomo and how things were run in Albany at that time. So you look at that, and as the governor’s counsel, I can’t ignore how the investigation was conducted. I think that different lawyers may have done some things differently.”

James’ office issued a statement after the news conference, slamming Cuomo’s lawyers for impugning both the investigators and the women who accused the governor of misconduct, and said that the AG’s office would make transcripts available to the State Assembly.

“After multiple women made accusations that Governor Cuomo sexually harassed them, the governor, himself, requested that Attorney General James oversee an independent investigation,” said James’ press secretary Fabien Levy. “The independent investigators selected are widely respected professionals, recognized for their legal and investigatory ability. To attack this investigation and attempt to undermine and politicize this process takes away from the bravery displayed by these women.”

“There are 11 women whose accounts have been corroborated by a mountain of evidence,” Levy continued. “Any suggestion that attempts to undermine the credibility of these women or this investigation is unfortunate.”