After Attorney General Letitia James’s office released a report in August accusing Andrew Cuomo of sexually harassing 11 women as governor, his team frequently claimed that James had a political agenda, citing her then-expected run for governor.
On Monday though, members of Cuomo’s own party found “overwhelming evidence” he engaged in sexual harassment and released a long-awaited report as part of the Assembly Judiciary Committee’s impeachment investigation. The committee retained the white-shoe law firm Davis, Polk and Wardwell, LLP to conduct the inquiry, later broadening its scope beyond harassment. The report determined that state resources were improperly used to work on Cuomo’s pandemic memoir, which garnered him a multi-million-dollar payday, and that he misrepresented the true COVID death toll among nursing-home residents. (The investigation also looked into claims that the Cuomo administration withheld information about the safety of the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, but that aspect of the inquiry was ultimately dropped following Cuomo’s resignation, and the team made no final conclusion on the issue.)
Cuomo’s most serious accuser gets backup
The Assembly’s report summarized the claims made against Cuomo by several women, including ex-aides Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett, but highlighted two specific allegations of unwanted touching: the allegations made by a New York State Trooper who was part of the governor’s security detail, and those made by Brittany Commisso, a former executive assistant in the governor’s office who says he groped her in the governor’s mansion.
While the report reiterated the story of the trooper, it added a new detail to Commisso’s account that undermines Cuomo’s defense. Commisso previously said she couldn’t remember the exact date of the attack, and the attorney general’s report used a timeline based on a day in November. Cuomo’s team said the date was false and proof her claim was not credible. But Assembly investigators have established the date of the alleged attack as December 7, 2020, through internal records such as Cuomo’s schedules, evidence they say places Commisso in the mansion, and her own memory of what Cuomo was wearing that day. Investigators said that the evidence has been turned over to law enforcement, and Albany authorities have summoned Cuomo to court in January to face one misdemeanor count of forcible touching.
Employees were forced to work on his memoir
The report also determined that state resources were improperly used to complete Cuomo’s book about his handling of the pandemic as governor, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic. Investigators determined that multiple levels of staffers worked on the book, despite a requirement by the state ethics commission that governmental personnel and resources not be used to complete the book, which Cuomo received a $5.2 million advance from his publisher for.
The report found that senior staff “attended meetings with agents and publishers, transcribed and drafted portions of the Book, coordinated the production and promotion of the Book, and participated in working sessions to review and finalize the Book.” Meanwhile, junior staffers were often required to work on tasks related to the book, in addition to their day jobs. Cuomo’s team has said that any work done by members of his office was strictly “voluntary,” but one state official confirmed that those tasks were expected to be completed. Senior members of the governor’s office were in direct contact with employees of the publisher, and the executive mansion was even used to host several manuscript-editing sessions and was where Cuomo did his recordings for the audiobook.
Cuomo directed staff to craft a better report on COVID nursing-home deaths
It turns out that a dubious report on the number of nursing-home residents in the state killed by COVID was issued on Cuomo’s orders, according to investigators. In March 2020, as the virus ravaged New York and flooded hospitals with the sick and dying, he issued a directive that a nursing-home resident couldn’t be denied admission to a long-term care facility based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID. That order was later amended, but Cuomo asked the health department to release a report that would show that the move didn’t spread the virus in state facilities, as critics said. Cuomo “reviewed and edited the draft DOH Report on multiple occasions, and made edits to strengthen the defense of the March 25 Directive,” according to the report.
Assembly investigators determined that top staffers were involved in the report’s creation despite its being released under the banner of the Department of Health. The staffers, who are not named, discussed what figures should be used in the report and ultimately only listed deaths that occurred “in-facility” and did not include “out-of-facility” deaths, such as people that died following a transfer out of a hospital or care facility, resulting in a lower death toll. The report also “did not explain the population of nursing home fatalities included in the report, nor did it explain why out-of-facility deaths were not disclosed.”
Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Cuomo, responded to the Assembly’s report in a statement, calling it and the attorney general’s investigation “equally flawed.” “The Assembly report is hypocritical, revisionist and damns themselves as the Assembly effectively forces employees to volunteer on their political partisan campaigns as standard practice and if they want to debate it we welcome it,” he said.