Cuomo, dealing with strain from Democrats, agrees to impartial probe of sexual harassment allegations

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters throughout a information convention at a COVID-19 pop-up vaccination web site in William Reid Residences in Brooklyn, New York Metropolis, U.S., January 23, 2021.

Mary Altaffer | Reuters

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday backed off his plan to nominate a former federal decide, who has an in depth connection to one of many governor’s high advisors, to supervise an investigation of sexual harassment allegations in opposition to him.

The Cuomo administration mentioned it’ll ask New York state lawyer normal Letitia James and Janet DiFiore, chief decide on the state’s highest courtroom, to decide on who will oversee an impartial probe. The choice would assist “keep away from even the notion of a scarcity of independence or inference of politics,” Beth Garvey, particular counsel to Cuomo, mentioned in a press release.

“We’ll depart all selections regarding the investigation to be made within the discretion of the impartial counsel chosen by the Legal professional Normal and Chief Decide,” Garvey mentioned.

The governor’s reversal comes after a slew of Democrats criticized the governor’s preliminary choose to steer a evaluate and referred to as for an impartial probe of allegations after a second feminine aide got here ahead to accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment. Some Democratic lawmakers additionally joined some Republicans to name on Cuomo to right away resign.

Cuomo’s workplace initially mentioned it will select former federal decide Barbara Jones to steer the evaluate. Jones had labored with Cuomo’s high adviser Steven Cohen.

The requires an impartial investigation observe a New York Times report revealed on Saturday night that described the accusations of Charlotte Bennett, a 25-year-old former aide to the governor, who mentioned Cuomo had requested her about her intercourse life and whether or not she was monogamous in relationships and had ever “been with an older man.”

It was the second allegation in opposition to the governor in every week. Former aide Lindsey Boylan, a former state financial improvement official, detailed sexual harassment claims in opposition to Cuomo final week, together with a kiss with out her consent in his Manhattan workplace. Cuomo has denied Boylan’s accusations.

Cuomo responded to Bennett’s allegations in a statement on Saturday, saying he supposed to function a mentor and “by no means made advances towards Ms. Bennett, nor did I ever intend to behave in any method that was inappropriate.”

Stress from Democrats

White Home press secretary Jen Psaki mentioned Sunday Cuomo ought to face an impartial evaluate over each units of allegations in an interview on CNN, including that it is one thing President Joe Biden helps and “we consider ought to transfer ahead as rapidly as potential.”

A spokesperson for Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., mentioned the senator believes the allegations “must be totally and independently investigated.” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., additionally referred to as for an “impartial, clear and swift investigation into these severe and deeply regarding allegations.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., joined different Democrats in calling for an impartial probe of the governor that’s not led by somebody Cuomo has chosen, however reasonably by the state lawyer normal.

“Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett’s detailed accounts of sexual harassment by Gov. Cuomo are extraordinarily severe and painful to learn,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote in a tweet Sunday morning. “There should be an impartial investigation — not one led by a person chosen by the Governor, however by the workplace of the Legal professional Normal.”

The brand new allegations additionally come after a report in January that Cuomo’s administration didn’t report hundreds of Covid-19 deaths within the state’s nursing houses.

New York Mayor Invoice De Blasio, a Democrat, mentioned on Sunday that the state legislature should instantly revoke Cuomo’s emergency powers that overrule native management and referred to as for 2 separate impartial probes into the sexual misconduct allegations and the undercounting of deaths at nursing houses.

“New Yorkers have seen detailed, documented accounts of sexual harassment, a number of cases of intimidation, and the admitted withholding of data on the deaths of over 15,000 folks,” De Blasio mentioned in a press release. “Questions of this magnitude can’t grasp over the heads of New Yorkers as we battle off a pandemic and financial disaster.”

New York state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi recommended the 2 girls for coming ahead with their allegations and referred to as on the governor to resign in a press release posted on Twitter Saturday night.

“The harassment skilled by these former staffers is a part of a transparent sample of abuse and manipulation by the governor, and that sample makes him unworthy of holding the very best workplace in New York,” Biaggi wrote.

Republicans additionally renewed requires Cuomo to resign following the second allegation, together with Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who in a press release on Saturday referred to as the governor a “prison sexual predator” and mentioned he should resign instantly.

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