NY Assembly Corroborates Cuomo Harassment Claims, Book Deal and Nursing Home Scandals

The heads of the impeachment probe promised a final report of their findings after saying they wouldn't seek to impeach the governor citing lack of constitutional authority

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What to Know

  • A 45-page report detailing the New York State Assembly's investigation into former Gov. Andrew Cuomo's alleged misconduct while in office has been completed and released to the public
  • An outside law firm hired to investigate Cuomo and his administration on behalf of the Judiciary Committee corroborated multiple allegations of wrongdoing
  • Cuomo's spokesperson, Rich Azzopardi, said Friday that the former governor and his team still hadn't been allowed to see a copy of the Assembly report, or all the investigators' evidence

The New York State Assembly released a scathing 45-page report into the conduct of former governor Andrew Cuomo, finding that he sexually harassed women, used state resources to produce his latest book and was "not fully transparent" about nursing home deaths from COVID-19.

The findings, authored by a law firm hired by the Assembly's Judiciary Committee, were widely expected, and the sections on sexual harassment largely echo allegations previously made in a report last summer by the state's attorney general.

On Monday, Speaker Carl Heastie released the full report of what he called a "profoundly sad chapter in New York's history."

"The former governor’s conduct – as shown in this report – is extremely disturbing and is indicative of someone who is not fit for office. I hope this report helps New Yorkers further understand the seriousness of the allegations that have been made and serves to guide us to a more ethical and responsible government. New Yorkers deserve no less," he continued.

An outside law, Davis Polk & Wardwell, hired to investigate Cuomo and his administration on behalf of the Judiciary Committee found the former governor engaged in multiple instances of sexual harassment, used state resources to write his book, and "was not fully transparent regarding the number of nursing home residents who died as a result of COVID-19."

Read the Cuomo Report From the New York State Assembly

The Assembly investigators said they reviewed that sexual harassment investigation, as well as about 600,00 pages of documents gathered by Davis Polk that ranged from photographs to emails to recordings of phone calls to video recordings. Statements from 200 individuals were also included as part of the investigation.

Davis Polk investigators didn’t interview Cuomo, who instead provided written submissions.

Book Deal

The report offered some new details, particularly around the $5.2 million private deal Cuomo struck to write a book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons on the Pandemic.”

Cuomo had promised state ethics officials that no state resources would be used on the book, but the Assembly's investigators at the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell said they found evidence the governor had his staff spend copious amounts of time on the project.

“One senior state official explained that book-related assignments were given by superiors and expected to be completed, and the work was not voluntary,” the report said. "Another senior state official complained in a text message to a colleague that work on the book was compromising the official’s ability to work on COVID-related matters."

Junior and senior staff members told investigators they were asked to perform book tasks during their work day, including transcribing dictations, printing and delivering documents, and attending meetings with agents and publishers.

NY Ethics panel voted to rescind their approval of Cuomo's million dollar book deal. Melissa Russo reports.

One senior state official sent and received 1,000 emails about the book, the report said. The report didn't name the official, but included details identifying her as his former top aide, Melissa DeRosa.

The investigation also found that Cuomo was misleading about the book's timeline, finding that on July 1, 2020, his literary agent told a publisher that the former governor was writing a book about the pandemic, with 70,000 words already written. A week later, publishers bid on the book, and on July 10, Cuomo secured the multimillion-dollar deal for it. That same day, he went on the radio and made it sound like he hadn't even stated writing yet.

The report also claimed that Cuomo misled New Yorkers about his earnings, as he said he would only make a lot of money if he sold a lot of books. But the $5 million included in the deal was guaranteed.

Responding to the report Monday, Cuomo's spokesperson, Richard Azzopardi, said senior staff who helped with the book did so on their personal time. He denied that junior staff was involved, as the report claims.

Assembly Member Phil Steck, a Democrat who represents part of the Albany area, said Friday that the report makes "very clear” that the then-governor violated conditions set by the state ethics committee, which had said Cuomo couldn't use state resources or staff on the project.

Investigators found that Cuomo ordered some state employees to work on the book, and while some said they volunteered their private time to do so, Steck said "there wasn’t enough time in the day for it to be voluntary work and for them to still be able to work on official state business.”

Ethics commissioners this week rescinded their approval of Cuomo’s book deal.

Sexual Harassment

On the sexual harassment allegations, Azzopardi said the Assembly had relied too much on information gathered during a “politically biased” investigation overseen by the attorney general, Letitia James, who is now running for governor.

“When all the facts are fairly weighed,” Azzopardi said, none of the harassment allegations will stand up.

Cuomo, a Democrat, resigned in August to avoid a likely impeachment trial. Despite his repeated denials, the report stated that "nothing in his voluminous submissions can overcome the overwhelming evidence of his misconduct."

"Stop trying to blame politics or saying there was some type of witch hunt," said Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz.

The New York Attorney General released transcripts of the Cuomo investigation, revealing more details of what occurred in the Governor's office. NBC New York's Jonathan Dienst reports.

Cuomo has denied sexually harassing anyone or touching any women inappropriately. For weeks, he has attacked the Assembly's investigation as biased and set on smearing him.

The former governor faces a separate criminal charge alleging that he groped the breast of a former assistant, Brittany Commisso, after summoning her to the executive mansion on Dec. 7, 2020.

The Assembly report said it had reviewed travel, phone and text messages that back up Commisso's account of her whereabouts on the day she says the attack happened.

“We conclude that there is overwhelming evidence that the former Governor engaged in sexual harassment,” the report reads.

Nursing Home Report

The investigators also examined allegations that Cuomo's office had the state Department of Health delete a reference to 10,000 COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents in a July 2020 state report.

The report instead used a lower figure of 6,500 deaths that excluded fatalities among patients who fell ill at nursing homes but died after being transferred to hospitals and elsewhere.

“Witnesses have stated that the same senior executive chamber official who served as the key point person for the book made the decision that only in facility deaths would be included in the DOH report,” reads the report, referring to DeRosa.

Some witnesses said using the higher number would have distracted from the overall message of the health department report, which was intended to defend Cuomo against charges that the state had worsened the death toll by telling nursing homes they couldn’t refuse to admit recovering COVID-19 patients discharged from hospitals.

The state contended infected staff and visitors were the key driver of COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes. The Assembly's investigators said they found no evidence contradicting that finding.

Cuomo often released statements pledging cooperation with the Assembly investigation, but investigators said he produced only limited documents over the course of almost six months.

“At no time has the former governor meaningfully complied with the committee’s requests or cooperated with its investigation,” the report reads.

Cuomo has demanded that Assembly investigators hand over all their evidence against him, but Judiciary Committee members say that Cuomo isn’t entitled to that evidence.

“In the face of an impeachment trial, the former Governor chose to resign, not to contest the available evidence and confront witnesses in that legal forum,” the report released Monday said. “Having foregone that opportunity, he is not entitled to the production of any further evidence from this Committee.

The final report comes months after Cuomo resigned in disgrace following the attorney general's independent investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior by the governor during his tenure in Albany. The heads of the Assembly report, Heastie and Judiciary Chair Charles Lavine, had previously announced the probe would be suspended once Cuomo resigned.

Criticism came swiftly from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and a number of the governor's accusers who felt it imperative to release the committee's findings. Three days later, the two Democrats reversed course and announced their intentions to release the report at the conclusion of their investigation.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo leaves state government under a pall of sexual misconduct, but before that he might've been remembered for infrastructure and the pandemic. Melissa Russo reports.

Cuomo’s resignation in August stymied the law firm’s efforts to interview witnesses about the misrepresentation of nursing home data, according to Assembly Member Mary Beth Walsh, a Republican.

“I believe that the timing of the governor’s resignation really kind of truncated the investigation and the ability to investigate on that,” said Walsh, whose district includes parts of Saratoga and Schenectady counties. “Several individuals who were scheduled to be subpoenaed did not cooperate after the governor’s resignation."

Cuomo faces ongoing probes from the state attorney general over his $5 million book deal and from state prosecutors, who are scrutinizing his handling of nursing home deaths data.

Since March, outside lawyers have been helping the committee conduct a wide-ranging investigation on whether there were grounds to impeach Cuomo, a Democrat.

Some legal and political experts had said that while people still may be interested in a process that holds Cuomo accountable, it is unclear whether lawmakers have the legal authority to impeach him on his way out the door.

“I’m not sure what the purpose of impeachment is. Impeachment is to remove him from office,” said Bennett Gershman, a law professor at Pace University. “He’s got to be impeached and then convicted by the Senate, and that’s a lot of work, a lot of hours. You'd think that these New York state representatives have better things to do than sit in judgment of a governor who’s already resigned.”

Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
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