ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s attorneys Friday called for transcripts related to state Attorney General Letitia James’s report confirming he sexually harassed multiple current and former female staffers, saying they were never given an opportunity to respond to several damning inaccuracies.
Attorneys Paul Fishman of Arnold and Porter LLC, Mitra Hormozi of Walden Mocht and Haran LLP and Rita Glavin of Glavin PLLC held a virtual press conference Friday to highlight issues with the attorney general’s report released Tuesday. The attorneys’ 11-page response was released Friday evening and is available on the governor’s website.
Cuomo’s attorneys asked James’s office to provide a draft copy of the report several weeks ago, but they were refused, Fishman said.
“We asked them to do that because we had concerns that there might be things that are inaccurate, there might be things that are not sufficiently thorough — things that might be included or excluded from the report that are fair or unfair — and we wanted to make sure the people who were being discussed had an opportunity to respond before the report was made public,” Fishman said.
The governor’s attorneys received the report at the same time as the public, including the press.
Notes from the 179 people who were interviewed, 41 of whom testified under oath, have not been released, Fishman said.
“After multiple women made accusations that Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed them, the governor, himself, requested that Attorney General James oversee an independent investigation,” Fabien Levy, James’s press secretary and senior adviser, said in a statement Friday to respond to Cuomo’s attorneys. “The independent investigators selected are widely respected professionals, recognized for their legal and investigatory ability. To attack this investigation and attempt to undermine and politicize this process takes away from the bravery displayed by these women.
“There will be a rolling production of interview transcripts made available to the state Assembly, which will be redacted as needed.”
Cuomo’s counsel has pushed back on several points in the attorney general’s report since its release Tuesday and its conclusions the governor sexually harassed at least 11 women with unwelcome hugs and kisses, surprising touches or gropes and increasingly suggestive sexual comments, breaking state and federal laws.
The report, published by former federal prosecutor Joon Kim and Anne Clark, a prominent employment lawyer. Cuomo’s top aides have questioned the independence of the investigation because Kim was involved in a 2014 investigation about Cuomo’s abrupt closing of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption and led the case against Cuomo’s former top aide Joe Percoco, who was convicted in 2018 on corruption charges and sentenced to six years in prison.
“I’m a former federal prosecutor, and I know the difference between putting together a case against the target versus doing independent fact-finding with an open mind,” Glavin said. “There has been no open-minded fact-finding here in this investigation. This investigation was conducted in a manner to support a pre-determined narrative.”
Cuomo’s attorneys also challenged allegations Friday of one current female staffer, referred to as Executive Assistant No. 1 in the attorney general’s report, who said the governor slipped his hand beneath her blouse and cupped her breast during a hug in the Governor’s Mansion last November. The staffer filed a criminal complaint against him Thursday, according to the Albany County Sheriff’s Office.
Cuomo has repeatedly denied the alleged sexual assault took place.
Cuomo’s attorneys read from various emails and documents from staffers from Nov. 16, 2020 — only day the executive assistant was in the mansion that month — saying detailed schedules and correspondence do not corroborate the staffer’s claims about when she was at the mansion, and show she was joking with other staffers and eating snacks on the first floor throughout that afternoon.
“When she first raised this in early March, [Gov. Cuomo] was stunned,” Glavin said. “...Me and my team went through the emails for that day. The documentary evidence does not support what she said, and what is disturbing to me is that the two investigators did not show that evidence to you —they ignored it. Ask them why.”
Gov. Cuomo will soon respond to allegations made by a state trooper assigned to his personal security detail that he ran his finger from her neck down her spine and said “Hey you,” while alone in a Capitol elevator, and a claim he ran his open hand across the trooper’s stomach to her hip where she keeps her gun, Glavin said.
“I can’t give you a timeline, but I know he wants to do it soon,” she said.
Cuomo’s attorneys did not have other rebuttal for the state trooper’s allegations.
Cuomo’s attorneys said other evidence omitted from the attorney general’s report would invalidate sexual harassment claims made by Lindsey Boylan, the first former staffer to come forward in December two weeks after announcing her campaign for Manhattan borough president.
“There are 11 women whose accounts have been corroborated by a mountain of evidence,” Levy said. “Any suggestion that attempts to undermine the credibility of these women or this investigation is unfortunate.”
The attorney general’s report found that after Boylan first tweeted out her allegations in December, the Cuomo administration sought to undermine her account by releasing personnel memos. Investigators said the retaliatory release violated multiple laws.
Cuomo’s counsel rejected the claim Friday, and released a 13-page legal analysis on the governor’s website about why the release of personnel records did not break state or federal statutes.
“What matters is that there is a very serious legal issue about whether the attorney general’s office is correct or not and that serious legal issue should have gotten more consideration in the report,” Fishman said.
The request for an early draft of the report was not unusual, Fishman said, adding it is common for investigators to provide that type of information.
Fishman called for the transcripts of the interviews of the people spoken with in the report to be publicly released.
“I know the difference between putting together a case against a case against a target versus doing independent fact-finding with an open mind,” Glavin said. “There has been no open-minded fact-finding here in this investigation. It was conducted in a manner to support a predetermined conclusion.”
Investigators handling the report acted as prosecutors, judge and jury, Glavin said.
Within minutes of Tuesday’s press conference, state and federal legislators issued calls for Cuomo to step down.
“We weren’t given any advance notice about report when released chance to respond to inaccuracies,” Glavin said.
Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, R-Pulaski, had strong words for the disgraced governor and his attorneys who attempted to publicly discredit Cuomo’s accusers and undermine the attorney general’s investigators Friday, he said.
“This would be shocking anywhere else, but it’s the unfortunate standard-operating-procedure for the Cuomo administration,” Barclay said in a statement. “The governor is in complete free-fall. Today’s desperate attempt to offer more explanations and excuses won’t change any minds, nor will it change the course that ends with his removal from office.”
Friday’s media availability comes after a team of attorneys with independent law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP advised Cuomo’s counsel in a letter Thursday the governor and his attorneys have until Aug. 13 to submit evidence in the Assembly Judiciary Committee’s impeachment investigation.
Every elected state and New York federal official has called for Cuomo to leave office since the report’s release, including President Joe Biden and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Assembly Democrats have agreed to prioritize completing the impeachment probe as quickly as possible and move to remove Cuomo from office.
Assembly impeachment resolution must be passed by a simple 76-vote majority in the state Legislature, which would force the governor to resign. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul would immediately serve as governor. A Senate trial would follow at least one month later.