Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been trying to cut a deal with top state officials, promising not to seek a fourth term if impeachment talks are scuttled — but no one is buying it, a source told THE CITY.
The governor and what’s left of his inner circle have been working the phones, fighting for his political life in the wake the damning Aug. 3 report detailing the sexual harassment allegations of 11 women and what investigators found was retaliation against one who went public.
Cuomo, whose term ends Dec. 31, 2022, has ignored calls for his resignation as the state Assembly pushes ahead with the impeachment process.
The source said Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, who resigned Sunday night, had been asking staff in the executive chamber for legislative strategies to quell talk of impeachment in recent days.
DeRosa’s resignation came as a shock to many in Albany, who saw her as the staunchest defender of the three-term governor and a merciless acolyte.
DeRosa, who is cited in the report released by State Attorney General Letitia James as leading efforts to discredit an accuser who’d worked for the administration, did not mention Cuomo in a statement announcing her resignation.
“Personally, the past two years have been emotionally and mentally trying,” said the 38-year-old Albany native, whose dad is a top lobbyist in the state.
Her resignation came after CBS This Morning released a clip from an interview with Brittany Commisso, the unnamed Cuomo executive assistant who filed a criminal complaint charging he groped her breast. The network aired the full interview Monday morning, in conjunction with the Albany Times Union.
“To me this was a dream job. And it unfortunately turned into a nightmare,” said Commisso, who started working for the governor in 2017.
The Albany County Sheriff on Saturday confirmed that it was conducting a criminal investigation into Cuomo.
“From what I have read so far, I can say we’re floating around a misdemeanor, but again that’s just from the attorney general’s report,” said Sheriff Craig Apple, who noted that the office hasn’t conducted an “in depth interview” with Commisso.
‘He is Lying’
Meanwhile, an Assembly committee was set to meet in Albany Monday morning to lay more groundwork for impeachment proceedings against the governor, who has until Friday to submit any evidence in his defense.
As the Assembly readies to begin the impeachment process, the State Senate — which would act as jury along with the seven-members of the state’s highest court — is in talks to hire lawyers with impeachment experience to help navigate the process, sources familiar with the discussions told THE CITY.
Even with top Democrats, including President Joe Biden, demanding his resignation, Cuomo has fought on.
On Friday, his lawyers offered a defense-by-Zoom, painting him as a victim of a political witch hunt as they tried to poke holes in the accounts of Commisso and Lindsey Boylan, the first woman to publicly accuse the governor of harassment.
Cuomo’s personal lawyer, Rita Glavin, suggested that the governor, who released a video last week denying any wrongdoing, may soon again be speaking out in his own defense.
Commisso, in the interview aired on CBS, charged that Cuomo groped her twice — first touching her buttocks on New Year’s Eve 2019 while she was at the Executive Mansion to help him draft his upcoming State of the State address. She said the governor grabbed her as they took a selfie.
“I then felt while taking the selfie, his hand go down my back onto my butt, and he started rubbing it,” she said. “Not sliding it. Not, you know, quickly brushing over it — rubbing my butt.”
Commisso said that the following November in the mansion he put his hand under her blouse and cupped her breast over her bra, after closing a door with the two of them alone in a room. “I exactly remember looking down, seeing his hand, which is a large hand, thinking to myself, ‘Oh, my God. This is happening,’” she said.
In the online defense, Glavin used slides to present a timeline that she said proved Commisso’s account in the report — in which she was identified as “Executive Assistant No. 1” — wasn’t alone with the governor on Nov. 16, when the report suggests the incident occured.
But the report notes that the aide told investigators that she did not recall the exact date of the encounter, which she recently reported to police.
Commisso called the governor’s denials “disgusting.”
“He almost has this smirk that he thinks that he’s untouchable,” Commisso said during the interview. “I almost feel like he has this sense of almost a celebrity status and it just — that was the tipping point. I broke down. I said, ‘He is lying.’”
If the Assembly proceeds with impeachment, Cuomo would be automatically removed as governor and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul would take his place as acting governor while the trial is ongoing. Hochul, who briefly represented her home city of Buffalo in Congress, could become the first woman to lead the state.
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