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New Cuomo probe: ‘Overwhelming evidence’ former governor sexually harassed women

<i>Seth Wenig/Pool/Getty Images</i><br/>The New York state Assembly Judiciary Committee on Monday released a 45-page report detailing the findings of an impeachment investigation into former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo is shown here at the mass vaccination site at Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem on March 17
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Seth Wenig/Pool/Getty Images
The New York state Assembly Judiciary Committee on Monday released a 45-page report detailing the findings of an impeachment investigation into former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo is shown here at the mass vaccination site at Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem on March 17

By Gregory Krieg and Lauren del Valle, CNN

Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed at least a dozen women, “was not fully transparent” about the number of nursing home residents who died as a result of Covid-19 and, in new independent findings, used taxpayer resources to help write and promote his 2020 book on leadership during early weeks of the pandemic, according to an investigation released Monday by the New York State Assembly.

The report was commissioned in March to dig into a series of claims against Cuomo and might have been the basis for the former governor’s impeachment had he not resigned in August, following a separate probe that also found Cuomo had sexually harassed multiple women.

“We conclude that there is overwhelming evidence that the former Governor engaged in sexual harassment,” the assembly report, which was conducted by attorneys from Davis Polk & Wardwell, states in its executive summary.

The 45-page report largely mirrors the findings of state Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation into the sexual harassment accusations against the former governor.

Cuomo has denied the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, said he did not intentionally misstate the nursing home death count and insisted the deal for, writing, and promotion of the book adhered to ethical standards. A Cuomo spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The newly released investigation widens the scope of alleged wrongdoing against Cuomo, who spent a decade running the state and ruling over its Democratic Party, and was widely applauded for his initial handling of the first Covid-19 surge in New York. But the spell was broken early this year as evidence emerged that he and his top aides undercounted deaths in nursing homes. At the same time, Cuomo became the subject of a barrage of sexual harassment allegations, which have now been found credible in two high-profile reports.

“The former governor’s conduct — as shown in this report — is extremely disturbing and is indicative of someone who is not fit for office,” Assembly Judiciary Chairman Charles Lavine said in a statement. “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.”

The assembly report marks the first public and official accounting of Cuomo’s alleged misuse of state resources in connection with a $5 million book deal he agreed to in 2020 for what became “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

According to investigators, senior state officials were involved in almost every facet of the book’s development, from “meetings with agents and publishers,” to transcriptions, writing, and other efforts to coordinate its completion, publication and promotion.

“This work was done as part of the regular course of work in the Executive Chamber, including during normal work hours,” the report states. “One senior state official explained that Book-related assignments were given by superiors and expected to be completed, and the work was not voluntary.”

One senior official sent or received over 1,000 emails regarding the book, from July to December 2020, and junior staffers described their work on the project as “not voluntary,” the report says.

In a statement Friday ahead of the investigation being made public, Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi disputed that characterization, saying, “State employees volunteered to assist the governor with his book American Crisis and now the Assembly apparently wants to criticize them.”

Cuomo also played a role in obscuring the total number of Covid-19 deaths among nursing home residents, investigators concluded in the report.

“The evidence obtained in our investigation demonstrates that former Governor Cuomo directed officials from the Executive Chamber, Task Force and DOH to prepare a report from DOH in order to combat criticism of the March 25 Directive,” investigators wrote, referencing an order by the New York Department of Health mandating that nursing homes not deny admission or re-admission to people “solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.”

The Department of Health report, investigators write, “was initiated by the then-Governor and influenced by members of the Executive Chamber and Task Force, then released under the auspices of DOH.” Cuomo “reviewed and edited the draft DOH Report on multiple occasions,” they added, in an attempt to “strengthen the defense of the March 25 Directive.”

The controversial order was reversed six weeks after it was initially given. Cuomo and a senior executive chamber official met with publishing representatives about his book on the same day the Department of Health report was released, investigators noted.

Though few lawmakers have spoken publicly about the report, Phil Steck, a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, told CNN last week that its findings suggested a connection between the release of misleading statistics about the number of New Yorkers who died in nursing homes and Cuomo’s book deal.

“I think you can certainly infer the political motive,” Steck said. “In the governor’s book, there’s a chapter on the nursing home, so they were trying to preserve the validity of their claims in the book by distorting the facts regarding nursing home deaths.”

Additionally, Steck indicated that his reading of the assembly report “strongly corroborated” the conclusions from James’ investigation into the numerous accusations of sexual harassment by Cuomo.

Cuomo referred that probe to James, but almost immediately thereafter began efforts to publicly undermine her and the attorneys she hired to conduct the investigation. More recently, Cuomo and his team have accused James of submitting a biased report in an effort to boost her own gubernatorial bid.

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