Are Cuomo's Days Numbered? Gov Lawyers Up After State AG Makes Her Move


It’s not a good time to be Andrew Cuomo.

Already in serious legal jeopardy for actions he took that led to the deaths of a staggering number of nursing home residents in New York state, the three-term Democratic governor also stands accused of sexual harassment by an ever-growing number of women.

Indeed, anger at Cuomo may be the only issue on which all political sides currently agree. And it raises the question: How long can he hang on?

This is a stunning reversal of fortune for a man who was lionized by Democrats and the establishment media just a few months ago for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cuomo — who is the son of the late Mario Cuomo, another three-term New York governor, and the brother of CNN anchor Chris Cuomo — was described by President Joe Biden as the “gold standard” of governors.

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In violation of all journalistic ethics, Chris Cuomo invited his brother — who he dubbed the “Luv Guv” — onto his show and fawningly “reported” on Andrew’s handling of the pandemic.

Harper Collins paid Cuomo a $783,000 advance to pen an onanistic tribute to his leadership during the coronavirus outbreak. The book was published in October, and Cuomo has been profiting off the pandemic ever since.

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences awarded Cuomo an Emmy “in recognition of his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and his masterful use of TV to inform and calm people around the world.”

And then the dam started to crack.

In December, former Cuomo aide Lindsey Boylan – who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Jerry Nadler for Congress last year and is currently running for Manhattan Borough president in New York City — tweeted that Cuomo had sexually harassed her for years and that “many saw it” but “no one would do a damn thing” about it.

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Boylan explained that she was impelled to speak out after learning that Joe Biden was considering nominating Cuomo as U.S. attorney general.

“Seeing his name floated as a potential candidate for U.S. Attorney General — the highest law enforcement official in the land — set me off,” she said in a Medium post.

At a news conference the following day, Cuomo dismissed Boylan’s allegations as “simply not true.”

Things remained relatively quiet until about a month later, when New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, released a bombshell report stating that the Cuomo administration had underreported the number of COVID-related nursing home deaths by as much as 50 percent.

In response, several Democrats began calling for the state Legislature to claw back the emergency powers they had granted to Cuomo to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Cuomo’s chief aide, Melissa DeRosa, was grilled by Democratic lawmakers during a private call in February as to why the administration had concealed the numbers from the public, she confessed that it did so out of fear of federal prosecution, the New York Post reported.

A media and political firestorm ensued.

The Department of Justice and the FBI announced that they were commencing criminal investigations into Cuomo’s handling of nursing home deaths.

CNN abruptly rescinded permission for Chris Cuomo to “report” on his brother’s administration.

Prominent progressive Democrats throughout New York state began publicly blasting Cuomo, accusing him of a “betrayal of the public trust.”

The flames were fanned further when Ron Kim — a progressive Democratic assemblyman who has been an outspoken critic of Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic – told CNN that the governor had called Kim on his cellphone and threatened to “destroy” him if he did not issue a statement to “cover up for Melissa [DeRosa] and what she said.”

Cuomo’s reputation as a bully is well known. In an interview with MSNBC about Kim’s allegations, New York Mayor Bill De Blasio remarked, “It’s a sad thing to say … but that’s classic Andrew Cuomo. A lot of people in New York state have received those phone calls. The bullying is nothing new. I believe Ron Kim, and it’s very, very sad, no public servant no person who’s telling the truth should be treated that way. The threats, the belittling, the demand that someone change their statement right that moment … many many times I’ve heard that and I know a lot of other people in this state have heard that.”

More Democrats began demanding that Cuomo’s emergency powers be eliminated, and members of the New York State Democratic Committee introduced a formal resolution to censure the governor for mishandling the COVID-19 fatality data.

Around this time, a billboard near the Capitol building in Albany went up calling for Cuomo’s impeachment.

And then things really hit the fan.

On Feb. 24, Medium published Boylan’s article detailing some of the harassment she suffered during her more than three years working for Cuomo. In it, she described how the governor asked her to play strip poker while on a government airplane, compared her physical appearance to his ex-girlfriend’s, inappropriately touched her lower back, arms and legs and kissed her on the lips against her will.

She also wrote that Cuomo had shown her a box of cigars he said had been gifted to him by former President Bill Clinton — an obvious reference to Clinton’s sexual encounter with Monica Lewinsky.

Cuomo again denied the allegations, but corroborating evidence surfaced.

In a stunning display of arrogance, Cuomo stood before a media scrum at a mass vaccination site in Queens the same day that Boylan’s article in Medium came out and cavalierly joked that he had been certified to administer COVID vaccines and that he’d get to choose “the part of the anatomy” to stick with the needle.

“I get to select the part of the anatomy where I do the vaccine. You’ll be surprised, maybe not, when you see the part of the anatomy that I pick,” the governor said.

Three days later, on Feb. 27, The New York Times reported that another former aide to Cuomo, Charlotte Bennett, had come forward to say that while she was serving as a health policy adviser to the governor, Cuomo had asked her inappropriate questions about her sex life, including whether she had ever had sex with older men. Bennett, who is 25, said the 63-year-old governor told her that he was “open to relationships with women in their 20s.” Bennett said that from Cuomo’s remarks, “I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared.”

Cuomo released a statement in which he denied making advances toward Bennett but admitted that some of his actions might have been “misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.”

Yet Cuomo’s penchant for making overtly sexual remarks is hardly a secret. The same day that he denied making advances toward Bennett, a video resurfaced from the 2016 New York State Fair in which Cuomo invited a female reporter to his table and, while snickering, told her that he wanted to see her “eat the whole sausage.”

On Monday, The New York Times reported that a third female accuser, 33-year-old Anna Ruch, had spoken out.

Ruch recounted that she had met Cuomo at a September 2019 wedding reception. At that event, Cuomo placed his hand on her bare lower back. When Ruch peeled his hand away, Cuomo remarked that she seemed “aggressive,” she said. He then put his hands on Ruch’s cheeks and asked if he could kiss her.

Corroborating evidence exists, including a photograph that Ruch said captured the moment it happened.

The backlash against Cuomo has been swift and severe.

After female staffers began speaking out about the sexual harassment they endured at the hands of the “Luv Guv,” the billboard outside the Capitol was changed to call for Cuomo’s resignation.

No doubt realizing that he needed to do something to contain the snowballing political crisis, Cuomo announced that he supported an investigation into the sexual harassment allegations.

However, under state law, the attorney general must request permission from the governor’s office to investigate claims such as this against the governor. Cuomo tried to bargain with James, offering to make the referral only if Janet DeFiore, the chief judge of New York’s highest court and a Cuomo appointee, would have a say in selecting the person to lead the investigation.

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James flatly rejected that proposal and, in a statement released on Sunday, made clear that she was not interested in haggling.

“To clarify, I do not accept the governor’s proposal,” she said. “The state’s Executive Law clearly gives my office the authority to investigate this matter once the governor provides a referral. While I have deep respect for Chief Judge DiFiore, I am the duly elected attorney general and it is my responsibility to carry out this task, per Executive Law. The governor must provide this referral so an independent investigation with subpoena power can be conducted.”

Cuomo, who is not usually one to give in, quickly folded and agreed to refer the matter to the attorney general exclusively.

He also retained a top-flight criminal defense attorney to represent him in connection with the nursing home scandal.

Things move slowly until they move fast. And things are now deteriorating quickly for Cuomo.

Before the pandemic, the governor was disliked by many on the far left. Now that he has been hobbled by scandal, their long knives are out.

De Blasio said Monday that Cuomo should step down if the sexual harassment allegations against him are confirmed.

On Tuesday, six state lawmakers who identify as democratic socialists issued a statement calling for Cuomo’s impeachment.

The same day, the progressive New York Working Families Party — which gave James, a committed social justice activist, her start in politics — called on the governor to resign.

In a blistering statement to The Hill, the New York WFP’s state director, Sochie Nnaemeka, said, “Andrew Cuomo’s reign of fear, harassment, and intimidation cannot continue. We are calling on Governor Cuomo to resign immediately because he is unfit to serve the people of New York.”

Notably, when James was running for attorney general, Cuomo bullied her into turning her back on the Working Families Party in order to secure his endorsement and get access to his donor network. James may see taking Cuomo down as a comeuppance for him and a means of achieving political absolution for her.

She also surely realizes that, in the dog-eat-dog world of politics, getting rid of Cuomo would clear the path for her to ascend to higher office.

Either way, the AG — which, the joke goes, stands for “aspiring governor” — and the left flank of the Democratic Party have trained their sites on Andrew Cuomo, and the rest of the party is helpless to stop them.

On Tuesday, the Democratic leaders of both chambers of the state Legislature announced that they plan to introduce legislation to strip emergency powers from Cuomo. While not an impeachment or a call for resignation, it is nevertheless a potent political kneecapping.

And late Monday, U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice — a moderate Long Island Democrat — called for Cuomo’s resignation, saying, “The time has come.”

Like James, though, Rice might have mixed motives.

In 2010, Cuomo — who at the time was attorney general — ran for governor and won. Rice, who was the Nassau County district attorney, narrowly lost the race to replace him to state Sen. Eric Schneiderman.

When Schneiderman resigned in 2018 after being accused of having physically and sexually abused several women (do you see a theme here?), Rice again toyed with the idea of throwing her hat in the ring but ultimately decided against it — likely because she didn’t like her odds against Letitia James.

If Cuomo is forced out of office and James becomes governor, Rice will have another opportunity to take the attorney general spot.

It’s all a game of opportunistic musical chairs with one common theme: Cuomo must go.

At bottom, the broad coalition from his own party calling for Cuomo’s removal is growing by the day, and the governor’s ability to hang on in the face of such headwinds is shrinking.

He no longer has the support, let alone the adoration, of the establishment media, which have seen that their idol has clay feet. And years of bullying, threats and intimidation have left Cuomo with few friends willing to stand by him.

Cuomo is a skilled political tactician, and his quick capitulation to the attorney general’s demands for an investigation referral means he knows he’s holding a weak hand.

His retention of a high-caliber criminal defense attorney for the nursing home debacle suggests that Cuomo is aware that he engaged in wrongdoing.

Cuomo’s political career is circling the drain. And that’s something everyone can agree on.

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Ameer Benno is a constitutional law attorney. He was the Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018 in New York's Fourth Congressional District, and he frequently appears on national television and radio to give legal and political commentary.
Ameer Benno is a constitutional law attorney. He was the Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018 in New York's Fourth Congressional District, and he frequently appears on national television and radio to give legal and political commentary.