NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday dismissed former Gov. Andrew Cuomo's repeated complaints that the sexual harassment investigation that led to his resignation was tainted by politics, saying the Democrat has “never taken responsibility for his own conduct."
James, speaking to a civic group in New York City, defended the 165-page report her office released in August that found Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women.
“Mr. Cuomo has a lot to say on these matters, but he’s never taken responsibility for his own conduct. He’s never held himself accountable for how his behavior affected our state government,” said James, also a Democrat.
Cuomo emphatically denied intentionally mistreating women. He said he was stepping aside to avoid subjecting the state to months of turmoil. Since announcing his resignation, he has promoted opinion columns on social media that question the independence of the investigation and suggest his ouster was an orchestrated, political bludgeoning.
“This was politics. Every step of the way," he said in a tweet last week.
The five-month, noncriminal investigation by James' office concluded that 11 women within and outside the state government were telling the truth when they said Cuomo had touched them inappropriately, commented on their appearance or made suggestive comments about their sex lives. The report also detailed efforts by his staff to discredit some of his accusers.
“Let’s not lose sight of what’s important,” James said. “It’s not me. It’s not Mr. Cuomo, but the survivors of his harassment. The people of our state whose trust he broke. And the people who believed in him, including myself. No one is above the law. And our state can do better moving forward.”
James contrasted her investigation with one Cuomo himself ran while he was serving as attorney general and investigated then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in 2008 in a prostitution scandal.
She noted that her investigation started after Cuomo’s office referred the allegations to her, was led by outside investigators and took five months. Cuomo’s investigation of Spitzer, James said, started without an outside referral, took 20 days and was handled within the office.
She said her office plans to publicly release transcripts of the 179 people interviewed as part of the probe.
James’ office has released only excerpts of the interviews. The Associated Press filed open records requests in August for full transcripts and recordings of interviews with Cuomo and other witnesses but has yet to receive the materials.
Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Cuomo and his longtime spokesperson, called on the attorney general to release those transcripts and a video recording of the former governor being interviewed by James' investigators.
"It should raise serious red flags that the AG and her staff duck every time specific questions about omissions and inaccuracies in the AG’s report are raised. The public deserves specific answers from the AG as to the credibility of her report — especially while she mulls a run for governor.”
Before resigning, Cuomo, his attorney and staff attacked the fairness of James' report on his conduct, including saying that records showed one accuser's account of being groped at the governor's mansion couldn't have happened during the time period she claimed.
James is considered a potential candidate 2022 candidate for New York governor. After giving remarks at Wednesday’s event, James dodged a question from the moderator about whether she will run, saying: “I am focusing on my work, putting my head down and serving all of you as the attorney general.”
Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak contributed to this report.