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More bad news for Cuomo as New York AG plans to ‘deputize’ outside law firm and seek subpoena power

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Democratic New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking the power to subpoena witnesses in an investigation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo that now involves multiple allegations of sexual harassment and unwanted sexual contact.

The embattled governor’s troubles deepened over the weekend as he sought to downplay the accusations while also issuing an apology for any actions that may have caused women discomfort.

Sunday evening, James announced that she plans to deputize an outside independent law firm to probe two allegations of sexual misconduct against Cuomo after a failed attempted to engineer his own investigation using a former federal judge considered to be an ally, Just the News reported.

“We expect to receive a referral with subpoena power to investigate allegations of sexual harassment against the governor, in line with our demands and New York state law,” James said in a statement on Twitter. “The referral would be made solely to the attorney general’s office.”

“We will hire a law firm, deputize them as attorneys of our office, and oversee a rigorous and independent investigation,” the statement continued.

James’ statement was posted a few hours after Cuomo, who is also facing increased scrutiny over his order instructing nursing homes to take in COVID-19 patients a year ago, apologized and agreed that some of his past behavior likely made the two women uneasy. 

“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended,” said Cuomo, who nevertheless insisted he had never touched or propositioned any woman inappropriately. “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.”

National and local Democrats, however, appeared to align themselves with the accusers.

“The women who have come forward with serious and credible charges against Governor Cuomo deserve to be heard and to be treated with dignity,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California told Fox News.

“The independent investigation must have due process and respect for everyone involved,” she added.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has often clashed with Cuomo, mocked the apology that he was “just kidding around.”

“On top of it, he’s saying, ‘Oh, I was joking around.’ Sexual harassment’s not funny! Who the hell tries to explain that by saying I was just joking around. That even further confirms a mindset from a whole other time that we have left behind,” de Blasio told the local Hot 97 radio show Monday.

“There may be more stories like it, and everyone should come forward because we’ve got to know the truth. … You cannot treat anyone this way. … It’ can’t be laughed off, it can’t be swept under the rug,” the mayor continued, adding he was “sickened” by the allegations.

“It sickened me, the thought of a powerful man trying to take advantage of his power, intimidate a young woman,” the mayor added.

Separately, Lindsay Nielsen, a former journalist in New York, took to Twitter to say she left her job at News10 in Albany in 2017 over alleged “threatening” behavior and “incessant bullying” by the governor’s office.

“The late night phone calls from the administration, the constant threats to call my boss, the incessant bullying to try and get me to stop doing my job and reporting specific stories…it would never end,” she wrote, adding: “I didn’t want to deal with it anymore.”

Jon Dougherty

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