Cuomo reverses course, asks New York Attorney General and top judge to appoint independent investigator over sexual harassment claims

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faces two accusations of sexual harassment. Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

  • New York Attorney General Letitia James asked Gov. Cuomo to allow her office to investigate claims against him.

  • Two former staffers have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment.

  • Numerous lawmakers, including Biden, have called for an independent investigation into the claims.

  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday said he planned to revise his widely criticized plan to have a former federal judge with ties to a longtime ally investigate sexual harassment claims against him, but the New York attorney general said she did not accept his plan.

In a Sunday press release, Cuomo’s office said he would ask New York Attorney General Letitia James and Janet DiFiore, the chief judge on the highest court in New York, to name “a jointly select an independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation to c onduct a thorough review of the matter and issue a public report.”

“We had selected former Federal Judge Barbara Jones, with a stellar record for qualifications and integrity, but we want to avoid even the perception of a lack of independence or inference of politics,” his office said in a statement, referencing the criticism to his initial plan.

Cuomo’s announcement Sunday drew a near-immediate backlash, however, because of Cuomo’s ties to DiFiore, whom he nominated for her current position atop the New York State Court of Appeals in 2015. Political insiders have previously accused Cuomo of intervening to help DiFiore’s daughter, Alexandra Murphy, secure a seat on the state Supreme Court, the New York Law Journal reported earlier in February.

James said Sunday she did not accept Cuomo’s latest proposal.

“The state’s Executive Law clearly gives my office the authority to investigate this matter once the governor provides a referral,” she said in a tweet. “While I have deep respect for Chief Judge DiFiore, I am the duly elected attorney general and it is my responsibility to carry out this task. The governor must provide this referral so an independent investigation with subpoena power can be conducted.”

James earlier Sunday called on Cuomo to allow her office to investigate the sexual harassment claims leveled against him by two former staffers within the past week.

In an interview published Saturday with The New York Times, former aide Charlotte Bennett said Cuomo made unwanted sexual advances toward her and asked her inappropriate questions on multiple occasions last year.

“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” she told the New York Times. “And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”

Bennett’s allegations Saturday followed allegations leveled days earlier in a Medium blog post by Lindsey Boylan, another former Cuomo aide, who said that the governor made unwanted sexual advances toward her, including inappropriate touching, for years.

Boylan said Cuomo kissed her on the lips without her consent in 2018, leading her to resign.

Cuomo denied Boylan’s allegations and said he “never made advances toward Ms. Bennett, nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate.”

Numerous New York lawmakers have called for an independent investigation into the claims against Cuomo. Earlier Sunday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that President Joe Biden supported an independent investigation into the allegations against Cuomo.

“President Biden has been consistent that he believes that every woman should be heard, should be treated with respect, and with dignity. Charlotte should be treated with respect and dignity, so should Lindsey,” she said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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