NEW YORK NOW – Hundreds of pages of testimony from former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the women who’ve accused him of sexual harassment this year were released Wednesday by the Attorney General’s Office, which led the probe into those claims.
Cuomo’s testimony largely mirrored what he’s said publicly about the claims, denying them and justifying certain behaviors by saying they’ve been part of his demeanor for years.
The transcripts show that Cuomo testified for more than 11 hours in July about the allegations made against him. He was interviewed about two weeks before a report was released on the investigation, deeming the claims made against him to be credible.
That report led to Cuomo’s resignation just a few days later. Now a private citizen, he’s continued to deny that he ever touched anyone inappropriately.
A separate report from the Assembly Judiciary Committee is also expected to be released in the coming weeks.
It’s expected to cover more than the harassment claims, expanding into allegations that the Cuomo administration mismanaged COVID-19 data on nursing homes for political purposes, used state resources to write a book, and more.
Judiciary Chair Chuck Lavine said in a statement Friday that members of the committee would be reviewing a final draft next week, but didn’t say when it would be released to the public.
“Next week, on Thursday, November 18 and Friday, November 19, members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee have been invited to Albany to review the report by Davis Polk & Wardwell, LLP on the investigation into former Governor Cuomo,” Lavine said.
It’s expected to include materials used by the Attorney General’s Office in its investigation into Cuomo, including the transcripts released Wednesday.
Cuomo’s interview with investigators in July was tense at times, to no one’s surprise. The former governor has claimed that one of the investigators — Joon Kim — was out to get him, and that the probe’s conclusion was predetermined from the start.
“You, as a reviewer, I believe, is such a perversion of fair — independent, fair, reviewer with no predisposition,” Cuomo told Kim during the interview.
That’s because Kim was previously a top deputy to former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whose office investigated Cuomo and a few of his close associates. He was never charged with a crime, but one of his top aides was convicted in a bid-rigging scheme.
Cuomo held on to that grudge, which was on full display in his interview with Kim.
“Preet Bharara has political aspirations, may have political aspirations against me,” Cuomo told Kim, citing no evidence. “His rabbi, your rabbi, Senator Schumer called for my resignation … How you didn’t think this was going to be an issue is beyond me.”
Aside from the obvious discomfort of the day-long exchange, the transcripts provide an inside look at Cuomo’s interactions with the women, and his team’s efforts to discredit them.
He again denied what some have considered the most egregious allegation made against him — that he groped an aide beneath her shirt at the Executive Mansion. That aide, Brittany Commisso, said that happened late last year.
“I would have to lose my mind to do some — such a thing,” Cuomo said, when asked about the claim. “It would be an act of insanity to touch a woman’s breast and make myself vulnerable for a woman for such an accusation.”
Cuomo is now facing a misdemeanor charge over the incident from the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, which has said they’ve collected enough evidence in the last few months to build a case against the former governor.
In her interview with investigators, Commisso painted a different picture — one that described Cuomo as someone interested in her appearance, who ultimately, allegedly, reached beneath her blouse at the mansion.
“He at one point — I would wear pants a lot, that when I wore a dress, he would comment about how — it’s about time that you showed some leg,” Commisso told investigators.
Commisso, again, described how the governor allegedly groped her, providing details for investigators on the scene of the incident, how it happened, what she was wearing, and more. She said, at the time, Cuomo appeared “sexually driven.”
“He really pulled me and I remember his hand just sliding right up my blouse. And I remember looking down and I remember seeing his hand,” Commisso said. “It was like in this — at that moment he was sexually driven.”
Commisso also testified about how the Cuomo administration met in January to strategize on how to discredit Lindsey Boylan, who worked in the Cuomo administration, and was the first woman to accuse him of sexual harassment.
Boylan has said Cuomo made several inappropriate remarks to her, including a quip about playing strip poker, and tried to kiss her when they were alone in his office at the capitol.
Cuomo’s team has argued that Boylan’s claim was influenced by her political ambitions. She was running to be the next borough president of Manhattan at the time.
“I would be in the room when they were actively trying to discredit her,” Commisso said. “They were actively trying to portray a different story of it. Trying to make her seem like she was crazy and wanting to get her personnel file out.”
At the time, Cuomo’s top aides had leaked copies of Boylan’s personnel file to a select group of reporters, in hopes that they would write about complaints made against her when she worked in the administration. Some took the bait, others didn’t.
Boylan would inspire a second woman, Charlotte Bennett, to make her own allegations against Cuomo. She became the face of the controversy after she was the first woman to appear on national news to talk about it.
Bennett had accused Cuomo of having several personal, inappropriate conversations with her. At one point, she said, he probed her on her experience with sexual assault. At other times, she said, he told her he would consider dating women in their twenties.
During her testimony to investigators, she said Cuomo’s top aides fostered a toxic culture that led to a hostile environment in the executive chamber and empowered the former governor’s behavior.
“It was extremely toxic, extremely abusive. If you got yelled at in front of everyone, it wasn’t any special day,” Bennett told investigators. “It was controlled largely by his temper, and he was surrounded by people who enabled his behavior.”
Cuomo, in his interview with investigators in July, said his top aides were working to retain a firm for legal advice on how to change that culture. He resigned two weeks later.
In a statement, a spokesman for Cuomo said the transcripts prompted more questions about her investigation, and the criminal case against the former governor.
“These transcripts include questionable redactions, and raise even more questions about key omissions made during this slanted process, which reeks of prosecutorial misconduct,” said Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Cuomo.
Read the full transcripts on the New York Attorney General’s website.