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Andrew Cuomo says he is ‘very sorry’ for workplace comments which he says were ‘misinterpreted as unwanted flirtation’ following allegations of sexual harassment

But Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, also argued that he never touched or proposed anyone inappropriately, denying a former aide’s claim that he kissed her on the lips after a briefing in face-to-face.

The governor’s statement capped a 24-hour whirlwind that began with a new charge on Saturday of sexual harassment and growing calls from prominent New York Democrats for an independent investigation into the allegations. Her efforts to guide this process also failed after State Attorney General Letitia James rejected Cuomo’s proposal that she and the New York Chief Justice jointly choose an independent lawyer to conduct “a full review. and independent ”of the claims against him. Instead, James insisted that the process be free from any perception of interference from the governor or his allies. To do so, she said, her office requested an official referral that would provide the investigation – which will be handled by an outside law firm – subpoena power.

Stepping back from his original positions, Cuomo – who for more than a decade in power has kept a strong grip on the workings of state government – signaled that he understood the gravity of a scandal that could threaten his work and his prospects for re-election. year to a fourth term. The new accusation has drawn the attention of top state officials and a call to CNN’s “State of the Union” from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki for “an independent review.” of these allegations ”. Psaki called them “serious” and said of the second charge that it was “difficult to read this story, as a woman”.

Cuomo’s office initially selected former federal judge Barbara Jones to investigate allegations of sexual harassment made against the governor by two former female assistants, but the choice was publicly rejected by several high-profile New York Democrats, who have argues that Cuomo should play no role in shaping the probe.

Beth Garvey, special counsel and senior adviser to the governor, in a statement earlier Sunday then called on James and Chief Justice Janet DiFiore to choose “an independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation” to lead a ” comprehensive review ”and report on the matter in an effort to“ avoid even the perception of a lack of independence or inference from politics ”.

But that push was also rejected by James, who, in a pair of statements from him, spelled out the conditions under which his office could conduct an independent investigation.

“To clarify, I do not accept the governor’s proposal. State executive law clearly gives my office the power to investigate this matter once the governor provides a reference,” James said.

“While I have deep respect for Chief Justice DiFiore, I am the duly elected Attorney General and it is my responsibility to perform this task in accordance with executive law. The governor must provide this referral so that an independent subpoena investigation can be conducted. “

Early Sunday afternoon, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand backed James.

“These allegations are serious and deeply worrying. As requested by Attorney General James, the case should be referred to her office so that she can conduct a transparent, independent and thorough investigation with subpoena power,” he said. Gillibrand said in a press release.

Among the complaints against Cuomo that will be investigated include one that emerged in a New York Times article on Saturday night. Charlotte Bennett, a 25-year-old former executive assistant and health policy advisor to Cuomo, told the newspaper that during one of the many uncomfortable encounters, Cuomo asked her about her sex life during a conversation in his State Capitol office and stated that he was. open to relationships with women in their twenties.

She interpreted the exchange – which she said took place in June as the state struggled with the pandemic – as what the newspaper called “clear overtures to a sexual relationship.” CNN has reached out to Bennett for comment on the latest accusation, which the governor denied in a statement on Saturday.

“The last thing I ever wanted was to make her feel one of the things that are being reported,” Cuomo said, saying “she came to me and opened up about being a sexual assault survivor “and that” I have tried to be supportive and helpful. “

Andrew Cuomo says he is ‘very sorry’ for workplace comments which he says were ‘misinterpreted as unwanted flirtation’ following allegations of sexual harassment
Another allegation was made by Lindsey Boylan, another former assistant to Cuomo, who wrote a detailed article on Medium last week about her own allegations of sexual harassment against Cuomo, which her associates say are bogus.

Boylan alleged in the Medium post that Cuomo invited her to ‘play strip poker’ during a 2017 flight on her taxpayer-funded jet as another aide sat next to her and a soldier state behind it. In 2018, Boylan said, Cuomo stunned her with a kiss on the lips after a one-on-one briefing on economic and infrastructure projects in his New York office.

Cuomo denied Boylan’s claims at a press conference in December when she first made them.

In a statement released by the governor’s press secretary on Wednesday, four other people said they were on the October flights with her and that “this conversation did not take place.”

CNN was unable to corroborate the allegations, and when asked for further comment, Boylan – who is currently running for president of the Manhattan Borough – responded that she was leaving her Medium position. speak for itself. She wrote in the post that she hoped to share her story “will pave the way for other women to do the same.”

Among Democrats who have called on Cuomo to let the Attorney General and Chief Justice appoint an independent investigator is New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, who wrote in a tweet Saturday: “As has become common practice in New York State when allegations directly concern the executive, Governor Cuomo should refer the matter to the Attorney General, who should in turn appoint an independent investigator.”
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote similarly on Twitter Sunday that there “must be an independent investigation – and not conducted by an individual chosen by the governor” to examine the allegations, which she called “extremely serious and painful to read”.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Maeve Reston contributed to this report.


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