During his three terms in Albany, Gov. Cuomo has been an extreme micromanager who surrounded himself with a small band of aides, most a generation younger than he is. They are essentially on call 24/7, and are involved in all aspects of his job, from running the executive branch to dealing with legislators and the media.
It is an understatement to describe the top ones as fiercely loyal. Cuomo demands total fealty and their approach to the world was once described by Steven Cohen, a longtime Cuomo aide and friend, as simple: “We operate at two speeds here: Get along and kill.”
Those loyalties are now facing a crucial test. Growing out of the two major investigations into Cuomo’s conduct, dozens of people in the executive office, including the inner circle, recently received subpoenas.
Being forced to produce official documents and give testimony under oath to government agents tends to clarify priorities, and even die hard loyalists will tell the whole truth instead of risking a perjury rap. The subpoenas thus represent a new dimension of the probes and create serious new threats to Cuomo’s hold on his office.
Although nearly all Republicans and many Democrats, including top Albany leaders and Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, urged him to step down, Cuomo has said “no way I resign.” After telling state senator majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins the Legislature would have to impeach and convict him to get him out, Cuomo has refused to publicly discuss the probes, which he calls “reviews,” and has projected an air of business-as-usual.
He got a boost when voters gave mixed messages to pollsters. While nearly 60 percent in one survey said he was dishonest and not trustworthy, another survey reported that 50 percent said he should not resign.
But polls can change quickly with new information and at least one of the investigations could produce tons of new information in relatively short order. Virtually all of it likely will bad for Cuomo.
The demands for testimony and documents are coming from both the FBI probe into whether Cuomo illegally withheld nursing home fatalities from the Department of Justice and the investigation by the office of Attorney General Letitia James into the numerous sexual harassment allegations.
The FBI probe presents greater legal jeopardy because the prospect of criminal conduct is more pronounced. There is no doubt Cuomo’s team lied about nursing home deaths and withheld the truth by changing an official Health Department report.
Later, Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor, admitted the state withheld the total deaths because it was afraid the feds would “use it against us.” She said that in a call to legislators she believed was private, but after The Post obtained a recording and published her comments, the FBI opened its case. Whether the actions constitute a crime is the issue.
Consider a likely interrogation scenario: DeRosa, under oath, is asked by the FBI about changes to the official report and her remarks on the phone call. Agents and prosecutors, armed with Health Department documents and sworn testimony from aides who leaked the scheme to the media, ask why the report was changed and why DOJ got inaccurate numbers.
They also want to know who was involved in those decisions. Did the governor give her any orders? What were they?
And what does Health Commissioner Howard Zucker say under oath about hiding nursing home deaths and DeRosa’s comments? What do internal documents show, including texts and emails?
Meanwhile, the outside lawyers appointed by James to probe the harassment allegations are taking a broader approach and the outcome probably holds more political peril than criminal, except perjury. The lawyers are said to be aggressively focusing not just on the individual acts allegedly committed by Cuomo against at least nine known women, but also the role of aides in perpetuating what some accusers call a culture that is especially toxic for women.
For example, questions have been asked about DeRosa’s role and also that of Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman, according to women who lodged complaints against the governor and later testified.
Investigators also appear to be moving quickly. Former state aide Charlotte Bennett, who accused Cuomo of propositioning her for sex, says she spent four hours answering questions on March 15th and turned over 100 pages of supporting documents. Accuser Ana Liss met with the same team three days later.
Sherry Vill, who went public Monday with her claim that Cuomo kissed her repeatedly without permission, already has a date with investigators, her lawyer said Tuesday.
Again, imagine likely interrogation scenarios, perhaps about several women who were summoned to the governor’s mansion on nights or weekends, where some of the alleged misconduct took place.
DeRosa might be asked what she knows about Cuomo’s fondness for some female assistants and their being summoned to his home. Were male aides ever summoned for such tasks?
A number of women have said they were told to wear fashionable clothes, heels and lipstick. Who told them how to dress? Did the governor have any role?
Also, media reports recounts stories of women Cuomo met at events or parties getting a phone call, offering them a job in his office even though they never applied. Agents might ask other aides who told them to find the women and offer them a job? Were they told why the governor wanted to hire them?
As a lawyer for one female accuser, Mariann Wang, put it to The New York Times: “The women in the executive chamber are there to work for the State of New York, not serve as his eye candy or prospective girlfriend.”
Her client, Alyssa McGrath, who still works there, told The Times Cuomo’s comments and ogling of her body amounted to sexual harassment, and said everyone in the office knew what was going on. She believes Cuomo tried to create a rivalry for his attention between McGrath and another woman, who accused the governor of fondling her breasts at the mansion.
“We were told from the beginning that was a typical move of his,” McGrath said. “Who was the girl of the week? Who was the girl of the month?”
If everyone knew, investigators will know, too. Cuomo’s aides are mostly civil servants caught up in a scandal and their loyalty under oath will be to themselves.
ID for Costco but not voting?
Reader Robert Wohar adds an example of where a photo identification is required, writing: “In addition to airlines and banks, another one is COSTCO. As a member who pays a small yearly fee for the benefit of discounts, I am required, when asked, to show a photo ID.
“I never heard of anyone complaining and I often remark to cashiers about the irony of requiring photo ID to buy groceries but not for voting for President of the United States.”
Headline: “U.S. Strategic Command’s social media account taken over by child!”
Joe Biden’s fixation on diversity has gone too far.