ALBANY – Sunday marked the 365th day since the first New Yorker tested positive for coronavirus, concluding a year defined in large part by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ubiquity on state and nationwide television screens.
Cuomo seemed ready to spend the day in hiding. And even though he emerges later today, he’s made it clear he won’t be discussing a New York Times report detailing the story of a second woman allegedly sexually harassed by the governor.
As of mid-Sunday morning, Cuomo’s schedule made no mention of any public events for that day. If that doesn’t change, it would mark the sixth straight day for Cuomo without answering questions from the press. It would be the longest streak of this kind since the start of the pandemic.
Disappearing in times of crisis is an ancestral strategy of Cuomo. After The Times detailed his administration’s interference with a so-called independent Moreland Commission to investigate public corruption in 2014, he abandoned the grid altogether for five days, even though he was in the middle of a campaign for re-election.
But the current silence stands out even more, as it coincides with the end of a year in which he led 418 press briefings, television appearances and radio interviews, and won an Emmy. for his televised briefings when New York was at the center of the pandemic. Last spring.
“Once upon a time, Cuomo’s playbook of ‘wait’ would have worked,” said Monica Klein, a Democratic consultant who worked for Cynthia Nixon’s 2018 main challenge against Cuomo. “But because he did these daily press conferences last year, it’s now noticeable and problematic when he tries to disappear from the public eye.”
Cuomo’s statement shortly after The Times article on Saturday night on the new harassment allegation suggested that his silence would continue, at least about his behavior.
“This situation cannot and should not be solved by the press; I believe that the best way to get to the truth is through a full and thorough external examination and I call on all State employees to comply with this effort, ”Cuomo said. “I ask all New Yorkers to wait for the findings of the review so that they know the facts before making judgments. I will have no further comments until the review is complete.”
This review and who should conduct it quickly emerged as a point of contention.
Cuomo’s administration announced Saturday night that it had chosen former federal judge Barbara Jones to conduct an “independent review.”
None of the many lawmakers calling for “independent” reviews since the first harassment allegations emerged on Wednesday seem appeased by this choice. Jones, in particular, once worked with a longtime Cuomo friend, Steven Cohen, at a Manhattan law firm. And Cuomo’s long history of getting involved in “independent” investigations by people he names – including, for example, the aforementioned Moreland Commission – has led lawmakers to demand that he play no role in the selection of the investigator.
“A truly independent investigation must begin immediately,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in a statement Saturday night. “A truly independent investigation is warranted,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a separate statement.
Both later clarified that they did not consider Jones’ appointment to be “truly independent”.
“We believe that [state] The attorney general’s office should take care of the investigation, ”a spokesperson for Stewart-Cousins said.
If there is anything that looks like a bright side for Cuomo as he tries to hang on to his politics, it’s that statements from lawmakers who would play a role in any potential impeachment lawsuit focused on the idea of an investigation. A few members called for his resignation – “You’re a monster, and it’s time for you to go,” Senator Alessandra Biaggi (D-Westchester) wrote in a tweet to Cuomo – though this group is mostly limited to the people who launched the idea of forced removal for weeks.
But the latest allegations certainly provide fodder for those hoping to take an immediate tougher line against the governor.
Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, one of Albany’s two most senior Republicans, had previously introduced a resolution to create a commission to study the possibility of impeaching Cuomo following the scandal of the retirement homes of his administration.
Barclay said he was not sure whether the harassment allegations related to the type of criminal behavior that could also be considered offensive. But he said they helped explain why lawmakers should end the emergency powers that allowed Cuomo to issue legally binding executive orders.
“There is a level of trust that you need to have between the legislative branch and the executive branch, as well as the executive branch and the people. That trust is eroding quickly, ”said Barclay.
“The governor was there throughout this pandemic to say what a great job he has done as governor. I think it is perhaps even more problematic because he did not recognize that mistakes had been made, ”he said. “Now, because of that, a lot of people don’t want to give him a pass, and neither should we.