NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo remained in hiding Monday because the state legal professional basic formally introduced an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment — and a number of the state’s high Democrats started to marvel simply how lengthy the three-term governor can maintain on.
The allegations of sexual misconduct by two former aides, which adopted a mushrooming scandal across the deaths of nursing dwelling residents, appeared to override each different political precedence within the state and left Cuomo at his most weak level since taking workplace 10 years in the past.
By night, Cuomo was dealing with a brand new declare: A girl whom he had not beforehand met stated the governor made undesirable advances towards her at a marriage reception in 2019, calling her “aggressive” after she eliminated his hand from the small of her again and asking, “Can I kiss you?”
“I used to be so confused and shocked and embarrassed,” Anna Ruch, 33, told the New York Times in describing the encounter, which the paper stated was corroborated by a pal, textual content message and pictures. “I turned my head away and didn’t have phrases in that second.”
The brand new declare, which differed from two earlier accusations in that Ruch was not an worker of Cuomo, added to the governor’s rising troubles. Already, the accusations by his former aides in latest days had turn out to be the only biggest risk to his profession and an inescapable topic for New York’s political class.
Earlier Monday, New York Mayor Invoice de Blasio attacked the governor in a sequence of media and public appearances, even suggesting Cuomo could must resign. One of many governor’s accusers urged others to come back ahead with their very own accounts. And in Albany, the place lawmakers are dealing with a multi-billion greenback deficit and end-of-month finances deadline, backroom discussions went so lengthy the state Meeting canceled its voting session.
One of many high Democrats within the state Legislature, Senate deputy chief Mike Gianaris, referred to as the allegations in opposition to Cuomo “extremely disturbing” and stated “it’s going to be a major problem” if investigators substantiate the claims. Requested if Democrats would help eradicating the governor from workplace, he didn’t instantly reply.
“Occasions are fast-moving,” Gianaris stated in an interview on the state Capitol on Monday. “So much has occurred the final 24 to 48 hours. From what we all know proper now, the legal professional basic’s concerned in a course of, we wish to respect that course of. Ought to developments change, then issues might change shortly.”
The governor, as soon as a ubiquitous presence within the media, has gone silent and prevented public appearances since former aide Lindsey Boylan accused him of sexual harassment on Wednesday. A second former aide, Charlotte Bennett, got here ahead on Saturday evening together with her personal accusations.
All of this adopted bitter controversy over the governor’s dealing with of nursing dwelling residents early within the pandemic and a spate of tales about his aggressive fashion of management.
Bennett, who made her allegations in a series of interviews with Times, stated in an announcement Monday that the governor has refused to take duty for what she described as predatory conduct.
“These aren’t the actions of somebody who merely feels misunderstood; they’re the actions of a person who wields his energy to keep away from justice,” Bennett wrote within the assertion.
Bennett claims Cuomo requested her inappropriate questions on her intercourse life, together with “if I had ever been with an older man.” That got here on the heels of Boylan alleging final week that Cuomo kissed her with out her consent and made inappropriate feedback, together with asking her to play strip poker.
“To the Governor’s survivors: I’m right here. Lindsey is right here,” Bennett stated in her assertion. “You wouldn’t have to say a single phrase. However when you select to talk your fact, we might be standing with you. I promise.”
De Blasio, who has steadily and publicly clashed with the governor on a variety of points, instructed Monday that Cuomo should step down if the investigation into the allegations confirms what the accusers say occurred.
De Blasio stated an older man making an attempt to benefit from a youthful girl to make her really feel like she might lose her job if she doesn’t consent is “horrible” — and instructed Cuomo ought to step down if he’s discovered to have engaged in sexual harassment.
“If somebody purposely tried to make use of their energy to pressure a lady to have intercourse with them, in fact that’s somebody who ought to now not be in public service,” de Blasio stated throughout his each day press briefing on Monday.
The mayor has referred to as for the rapid cancellation of Cuomo’s emergency powers in addition to two separate independent investigationsinto his conduct.
Cuomo launched an announcement Sunday by which he claimed his feedback to Bennett have been meant to be “good natured” and stated he was sorry the interactions have been “misinterpreted as an undesirable flirtation.” He additionally conceded he typically makes “jokes that I believe are humorous” when he’s at work, believing he’s “being playful.”
The governor agreed on Sunday to permit state Legal professional Normal Tish James to nominate a “certified non-public lawyer” to launch an investigation into the allegations in opposition to him, reversing course after James rejected his earlier proposals and demanded subpoena energy.
Cuomo’s workplace on Monday formally directed James to maneuver ahead with the inquiry, sending a referral to her workplace. James pledged to reveal the findings of the investigation in a public report.
“This isn’t a duty we take calmly as allegations of sexual harassment ought to at all times be taken critically,” James, who was independently elected, stated in an announcement.
In the meantime, Cuomo‘s frequent critics have been forcefully attacking the governor. The Senate’s Republican minority chief, Rob Ortt, repeated his requires the governor to resign.
De Blasio referred to as Cuomo’s conduct “disgusting” and “creepy” and stated he has seen the governor be abusive “in a means that might not be accepted by anybody in management.”
“Sexual harassment shouldn’t be humorous,” he stated on radio station Scorching 97 earlier Monday morning. “I imply, who the hell tries to clarify that by saying I used to be simply joking round? I imply that even additional confirms a mindset from an entire ‘nother time that we have now left behind, that is unacceptable.”
Federal investigators are additionally wanting into the Cuomo administration’s dealing with of Covid-19 deaths in nursing properties. For months, the state hid knowledge on hundreds of nursing dwelling sufferers who died of Covid-19.
De Blasio stated, along with the sexual harassment allegations, there must be a probe into the nursing properties, together with whether or not Cuomo acquired marketing campaign contributions from the nursing dwelling trade.
“We can not simply have a look at one or the opposite,” he stated. “We’d like a full investigation of the nursing dwelling challenge the place hundreds of individuals died. Data was coated up on goal and we nonetheless do not know if our seniors are secure going ahead, our elders. We do not know if they’re, as a result of we have now not gotten a full accounting of the info.”
Cuomo’s workplace stated on Monday it had employed Elkan Abramowitz, a former federal prosecutor and a high white-collar protection legal professional, the Wall Street Journal reported. Abramowitz stated in an electronic mail to POLITICO that the agency is representing the governor’s workplace because it pertains to the inquiries involving nursing properties and “haven’t been retained on the sexual harassment matter.”
Nationally, White Home officers and main Democrats continued to area questions in regards to the accusations confronted by Cuomo, beforehand thought-about a number one Democratic contender for president.
Hillary Clinton said in a statement that she was “glad to see that there might be a full, unbiased, and thorough investigation.”
“These tales are troublesome to learn, and the allegations introduced forth elevate severe questions that the ladies who’ve come ahead and all New Yorkers deserve solutions to,” Clinton stated.
Cuomo was secretary of Division of Housing and City Growth beneath President Invoice Clinton.
On the White Home, press secretary Jen Psaki cited the unbiased investigation in declining to instantly criticize Cuomo, saying she would “go away it to that course of, to the legal professional basic, to make a willpower on the trail ahead.” However, she stated, the allegations have been troublesome to listen to.
“That story was extremely uncomfortable to learn as a lady, and we actually imagine that each girl coming ahead — Charlotte, Lindsey — must be handled with respect and dignity and have the ability to inform their story and handled with respect,” Psaki stated.
Invoice Mahoney, Anna Gronewold and Nick Niedzwiadek contributed to this report.