A 2nd Cuomo Investigation Is Expected to Confirm Harassment Claims

In the weeks before and after his resignation as governor, Andrew M. Cuomo defended his behavior, deflected blame and tried to discredit Letitia James, the state attorney general who concluded that he had sexually harassed multiple women while in office.

As Ms. James put it this week, Mr. Cuomo “has never taken responsibility for his own conduct.”

“He has never held himself accountable for how his behavior affected our state government,” Ms. James, a fellow Democrat, said on Wednesday during a breakfast with powerful business and civic leaders in Manhattan.

She added, “No one is above the law.”

Ms. James’s findings are expected to serve as a blueprint for a far-ranging investigation by the State Assembly that is in its final stages. A report is expected to be made public in October, according to a person familiar with the inquiry who requested anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.

Some lawmakers briefed on the inquiry said that a portion of the Assembly’s investigation would largely mirror the findings of the state attorney general’s 163-page report, which concluded that Mr. Cuomo fostered a toxic work environment and sexually harassed 11 women, including current and former female staffers.

State lawmakers started the investigation six months ago to potentially impeach Mr. Cuomo, but they pledged to finish the inquiry even after he left office, eager as they are to move past one of the most tumultuous phases in New York political history.

The final report could revive calls among some lawmakers to impeach Mr. Cuomo to prevent him from running again, though that seems unlikely. Carl E. Heastie, the speaker of the Assembly, has argued it would be unconstitutional to impeach a governor out of office, and many Democrats see impeachment as an unnecessary distraction.

Even so, the culmination of the investigation will allow Democratic lawmakers to close a chapter of the Cuomo scandals, which overshadowed the Legislature’s work and tormented the party, and turn their full attention to the state budget, the redistricting process and next year’s elections.

For Mr. Cuomo, the outcome of the inquiry could cement the stain of the sexual harassment allegations on his legacy, and lead to additional fallout: The investigation is also scrutinizing whether Mr. Cuomo deliberately obscured the number of nursing home deaths during the pandemic or unlawfully used state resources to write his pandemic memoir, which earned him $5.1 million.

Assemblyman David Weprin, a Democrat from Queens, said the investigation “is going to reach a conclusion similar to some of the findings of the attorney general.”

The Assembly’s lawyers subpoenaed a broad array of documents from Mr. Cuomo and his office in late July, requesting communications related to sexual harassment by Mr. Cuomo, with a particular focus on 13 women, according to a person familiar with the matter, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the subpoena publicly.

Many of the 13 women were the focus of the attorney general report, including Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett, or have spoken about their claims publicly, like Karen Hinton, a former staffer who said Mr. Cuomo made sexual advances two decades ago while they were alone in a hotel room.

But the Assembly investigators were also interested in the accounts from women not mentioned in the attorney general report, including two women who worked as executive assistants and two journalists, including Jessica Bakeman, a former Albany reporter who detailed her claims of sexual harassment in New York magazine in March.

The members of the Judiciary Committee, which is overseeing the investigation, have had access to volumes of evidence from the state attorney general inquiry, including thousands of documents and hours of video recorded testimony, including from Mr. Cuomo, who sat down for hours of sworn testimony. Some lawmakers have spent hours this month reviewing the evidence in person in secure rooms in Albany and at the Manhattan offices of Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, the law firm hired to conduct the inquiry.

Even so, the members of the Judiciary Committee have not met since August; many said they still haven’t seen a draft of the report and were unaware when exactly it would be released.

Mr. Cuomo, who has forcefully denied most of the allegations, has not been asked to testify in the Assembly investigation, though Mr. Cuomo’s lawyers have been in touch with the Assembly’s investigators.

One such communication — a 25-page letter sent on Sept. 13 from Rita Glavin, the governor’s personal lawyer, to the Judiciary Committee — argued that a report by the Assembly was unnecessary since Mr. Cuomo had already resigned. Ms. Glavin included a number of examples, many of which she has previously publicized, meant to highlight inaccuracies in the attorney general’s report, which she described as “designed to reach a predetermined outcome and to exact maximum political consequences.”

Mr. Cuomo on Wednesday suggested that Ms. James be compelled to answer a series of 10 questions that his spokesman, Rich Azzopardi, posted on Twitter; Mr. Cuomo retweeted the list.

“It should raise serious red flags that the attorney general and her staff duck every time specific questions about omissions and inaccuracies in the attorney general’s report are raised,” Mr. Azzopardi said on Wednesday. “The public deserves specific answers from the attorney general as to the credibility of her report — especially while she mulls a run for governor.”

On Thursday, Mr. Azzopardi described the attorney general report as “fraudulent,” adding, “The Assembly is now in a box: They must either reveal the fraud or be complicit in the fraud.”

Some lawmakers said that they had found some discrepancies between the attorney general’s report and the underlying evidence from the investigation — such as the date that an alleged incident of sexual harassment took place — but that the errors did not undermine the overarching conclusions of the investigation.

“I haven’t found any of the governor’s arguments very convincing,” said Assemblyman Phil Steck, a Democrat who represents parts of Schenectady. “The question is, is the discrepancy really material or not material? And so far, what they appear to have raised is not material.”

Assembly investigators are also scrutinizing whether Mr. Cuomo willfully misled the Legislature and the public by undercounting nursing home deaths, and whether he obscured the numbers in order to burnish his image as a pandemic hero and bolster the sales of the book he published last year.

Indeed, the Assembly subpoenaed records related to the book — “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic” — as well as an earlier memoir — “All Things Possible: Setbacks and Success in Politics and Life” — he published in 2014.

Records requested about the books ranged from drafts and audio dictations to contracts detailing royalties and any documents that show how state employees were involved in the production or promotion of the books, and whether they volunteered their time.

“It certainly appears from the evidence I’m familiar with that people were working on the book during regular business hours when it was not plausible for them to argue that they were not on government time so to speak,” Mr. Steck said.

Investigators have also requested a broad array of documents related to nursing home deaths, including drafts of a Department of Health report that Cuomo officials rewrote last year to include a smaller number of nursing home deaths.

Michael Montesano, the highest-ranking Republican on the Assembly’s judiciary committee, said the Assembly had “hundreds of emails and text messages that address this issue, that go between all the top people from his office.”

Ms. James’s office is also conducting a criminal investigation into the production of the book and whether Mr. Cuomo or his officials violated the state’s public officers law.

Launched in March, the Assembly’s investigation cast a broad net for any instances in which Mr. Cuomo may have abused his power while in office — evidence that could lay the grounds for possible impeachment proceedings against Mr. Cuomo.

Investigators looked at the priority coronavirus tests that health officials administered to Mr. Cuomo’s family, including his brother, Chris Cuomo, the CNN anchor, and close associates when the tests were scarce at the beginning of the pandemic. In her letter, Ms. Glavin argued that workers at the state attorney general’s office and members of the Legislature, as well as their families, also received preferential tests.

Mr. Weprin said that the priority Covid-19 tests were no longer “a major focus” of the inquiry.

Lawmakers abandoned another thread of the investigation that was looking at whether the Cuomo administration covered up potential structural problems on the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, which connects Rockland and Westchester Counties.

“It’s a very involved and complicated process,” Mr. Montesano said of the engineering and technical safety issues related to the bridge, “and we didn’t want to slow down what we were doing.”

William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.

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