Cuomo, facing pressure from Democrats, agrees to independent probe of sexual harassment allegations

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters throughout a information convention at a COVID-19 pop-up vaccination web site in William Reid Apartments in Brooklyn, New York City, U.S., January 23, 2021.

Mary Altaffer | Reuters

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday backed off his plan to appoint a former federal choose, who has a detailed connection to one of the governor’s prime advisors, to oversee an investigation of sexual harassment allegations in opposition to him.

The Cuomo administration stated it should ask New York state lawyer basic Letitia James and Janet DiFiore, chief choose on the state’s highest court docket, to select who will oversee an independent probe. The determination would assist “avoid even the perception of a lack of independence or inference of politics,” Beth Garvey, particular counsel to Cuomo, stated in an announcement.

“We will leave all decisions concerning the investigation to be made in the discretion of the independent counsel selected by the Attorney General and Chief Judge,” Garvey stated.

James, in an announcement Sunday, stated she was prepared to oversee an investigation and make any mandatory appointments. However, she stated this could solely be achieved by an official referral from the governor’s workplace, and should embrace subpoena energy.

“I urge the governor to make this referral immediately,” James stated.

The governor’s reversal comes after a slew of Democrats criticized the governor’s preliminary decide to lead a assessment and referred to as for an independent probe of allegations after a second feminine aide got here ahead to accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment. Some Democratic lawmakers additionally joined some Republicans to name on Cuomo to instantly resign.

Cuomo’s workplace initially stated it might select former federal choose Barbara Jones to lead the assessment. Jones had labored with Cuomo’s prime adviser Steven Cohen.

The requires an independent investigation observe a New York Times report revealed on Saturday night that described the accusations of Charlotte Bennett, a 25-year-old former aide to the governor, who stated Cuomo had requested her about her intercourse life and whether or not she was monogamous in relationships and had ever “been with an older man.”

It was the second allegation in opposition to the governor in per week. Former aide Lindsey Boylan, a former state financial growth official, detailed sexual harassment claims in opposition to Cuomo final week, together with a kiss with out her consent in his Manhattan workplace. Cuomo has denied Boylan’s accusations.

Cuomo responded to Bennett’s allegations in an announcement on Saturday, saying he meant to function a mentor and “never made advances toward Ms. Bennett, nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate.”

Pressure from Democrats

White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated Sunday Cuomo ought to face an independent assessment over each units of allegations in an interview on CNN, including that it is one thing President Joe Biden helps and “we believe should move forward as quickly as possible.”

A spokesperson for Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., stated the senator believes the allegations “should be thoroughly and independently investigated.” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., additionally referred to as for an “independent, transparent and swift investigation into these serious and deeply concerning allegations.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., joined different Democrats in calling for an independent probe of the governor that isn’t led by somebody Cuomo has chosen, however relatively by the state lawyer basic.

“Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett’s detailed accounts of sexual harassment by Gov. Cuomo are extremely serious and painful to read,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote in a tweet Sunday morning. “There must be an independent investigation — not one led by an individual selected by the Governor, but by the office of the Attorney General.”

The new allegations additionally come after a report in January that Cuomo’s administration failed to report 1000’s of Covid-19 deaths within the state’s nursing houses.

New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, a Democrat, stated on Sunday that the state legislature should instantly revoke Cuomo’s emergency powers that overrule native management and referred to as for 2 separate independent probes into the sexual misconduct allegations and the undercounting of deaths at nursing houses.

“New Yorkers have seen detailed, documented accounts of sexual harassment, multiple instances of intimidation, and the admitted withholding of information on the deaths of over 15,000 people,” De Blasio stated in an announcement. “Questions of this magnitude cannot hang over the heads of New Yorkers as we fight off a pandemic and economic crisis.”

New York state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi recommended the 2 girls for coming ahead with their allegations and referred to as on the governor to resign in an announcement posted on Twitter Saturday night.

“The harassment experienced by these former staffers is part of a clear pattern of abuse and manipulation by the governor, and that pattern makes him unworthy of holding the highest office in New York,” Biaggi wrote.

Republicans additionally renewed requires Cuomo to resign following the second allegation, together with Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who in an announcement on Saturday referred to as the governor a “criminal sexual predator” and stated he should resign instantly.

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