Cuomo to allow NY AG, top judge to investigate accusations

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday said he planned to revise his widely criticized plan to have a former federal judge with ties to a longtime ally investigate sexual harassment claims against him. 

In a Sunday press release, Cuomo’s office said he would instead ask New York Attorney General Letitia James and Janet DiFiore, the chief judge on the highest court in New York, to name “a jointly select an independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation to conduct a thorough review of the matter and issue a public report.” 

“We had selected former Federal Judge Barbara Jones, with a stellar record for qualifications and integrity, but we want to avoid even the perception of a lack of independence or inference of politics,” his office said in a statement.

James also Sunday called on Cuomo to allow her office to investigate the sexual harassment claims leveled against him by two former staffers. 

“Allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously,” James, a Democrat, said in a tweet Sunday
“There must be a truly independent investigation to thoroughly review these troubling allegations against the governor, and I stand ready to oversee that investigation and make any appointments necessary.”

“Given state law, this can only be accomplished through an official referral from the governor’s office and must include subpoena power,” James continued. “I urge the governor to make this referral immediately.”

Within the past week, two former staffers have accused the New York governor of sexual harassment in the workplace.

In an interview published Saturday with The New York Times, former aide Charlotte Bennett said Cuomo made unwanted sexual advances toward her and asked her inappropriate questions on multiple occasions last year.

“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” she told the New York Times. “And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”

Bennett’s allegations Saturday followed allegations leveled days earlier in a Medium blog post by Lindsey Boylan, another former Cuomo aide, who said that the governor made unwanted sexual advances toward her, including inappropriate touching, for years.

Boylan said Cuomo kissed her on the lips without her consent in 2018, leading her to resign.

Cuomo denied Boylan’s allegations and said he “never made advances toward Ms. Bennett, nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate.” 

Numerous New York lawmakers have called for an independent investigation into the claims against Cuomo. Earlier Sunday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that President Joe Biden supported an independent investigation into the allegations against Cuomo.

“President Biden has been consistent that he believes that every woman should be heard, should be treated with respect, and with dignity. Charlotte should be treated with respect and dignity, so should Lindsey,” she said.

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