Cuomo sparred with investigators over meaning of ‘girlfriend,’ ‘date’ — and ‘butt’

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Newly launched transcripts supply a glimpse into the governor’s defiant, Clintonesque protection as probers grilled him about sexual harassment allegations. In the meantime, 10 ladies testified about their expertise with his administration.

Three months after Lawyer Normal Letitia James’ workplace issued a scathing report detailing sexual harassment by Andrew Cuomo, her workplace on Wednesday launched transcripts of interviews with the previous governor and 10 ladies concerned within the inquiry.

The greater than 2,300 pages of interviews supply a glimpse into how Cuomo and prime aides interacted with underlings — and how he pushed again on the 11-hour, mid-July interrogation by a former federal prosecutor and a office misconduct lawyer. 

Regardless of denying the allegations, Cuomo resigned in August below menace of impeachment by the state Legislature. He was charged late last month with a misdemeanor intercourse crime stemming from an allegation he forcibly touched an aide within the Governor’s Mansion. 

In his interview, a defiant Cuomo questioned the motivations of the investigators employed by James’ workplace to conduct the inquiry, providing meandering solutions or obtuse responses, whereas flexing his authorized acumen. 

Requested by investigators whether or not he understood he had the suitable to not reply questions that may incriminate him, Cuomo famous he was “a former attorney general.”

“I’m aware of the attorney general’s power. I’m aware of the special prosecutor power, independent investigator power, I understand there may be subsequent investigations to this investigation, yes,” the then-governor mentioned. 

The reams of testimony, performed below oath, and the accompanying displays characterize only a portion of the fabric collected by James. Nonetheless to return are the transcripts of interviews with some of Cuomo’s most loyal aides. 

Some themes that emerged within the transcripts launched thus far:

The Invoice Clinton Method

Now-former President Invoice Clinton’s authorized protection within the investigation over whether or not he had a sexual relationship with White Home intern Monica Lewinsky hinged on parsing phrases. 

In 1998, Clinton advised the grand jury that he was not mendacity when he mentioned “There’s nothing going on between” himself and Lewinsky — noting that the road of questioning relied on the definition of “is.” 

On the time, Cuomo was working for Clinton as secretary of the U.S. Division of Housing and City Growth.

Like his former boss, Cuomo deployed a similar tactic with investigators employed by James’ workplace, questioning at nice size the definition of “girlfriend” and “date” when requested a few former actress he had been rumored to be seeing who resembled aide Lindsey Boylan.

Q: Did you date her? 

A. How do you wish to outline “date”? 

Q. How do you outline “date”?

A. Nevertheless it doesn’t matter how I outline “date.” How do you outline “date”? As a result of it’s your query.

Q. My query is — you don’t perceive the query of — first I’ll go to my earlier query: Was she your girlfriend? You don’t perceive that query?  

A. I — was she my girlfriend, meaning? 

Q. Do you perceive what a girlfriend is? 

A. Effectively, girlfriend means various things to totally different folks.

On a separate event, investigators requested Cuomo if he ever deliberately touched any girl on the butt, which he denied. They requested if he ever touched a girl “near the butt,” which prompted Rita Glavin, Cuomo’s lawyer, to request a definition of what “near the butt” means.  

“Do you understand where a human’s butt is? And anywhere near there?” Cuomo was requested.

“Well, ‘near the butt’ now becomes an expansive area,” he replied.

Dredging Up Grudges — and Schumer 

Cuomo didn’t search to cover his scorn on the investigators, significantly Joon Kim, a associate at Cleary Gottlieb tapped to conduct the inquiry. Cuomo and Kim have been at odds earlier than. 

Kim, a former appearing U.S. Lawyer for the Southern District, was a prime deputy below former U.S. Lawyer Preet Bharara, whose workplace led a corruption investigation towards Cuomo that in the end cleared him however despatched his prime aide and shut pal Joe Percoco to prison in 2018. 

It’s been years for the reason that investigation into Cuomo disbanding the so-called Moreland Fee to probe corruption in state authorities ceased, however it was nonetheless recent on the governor’s thoughts. And he was certain to remind Kim about it. 

Kim requested Cuomo questions over who coined the time period “mean girls” to explain a gaggle of prime feminine aides recognized for banding collectively to berate different staffers, in accordance with the transcripts of Cuomo and different aides. 

Don Pollard / Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo
Ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a daily coronavirus briefing with top adviser Melissa DeRosa.

“It was [former Cuomo aide] Andrew Ball, who you remember from the Percoco trial. You put him on the — you put him up at the trial. Remember? So you’re acquainted with him,” Cuomo responds. 

For months, Cuomo, his aides and lawyer have tried to discredit the work of the investigators employed by James’ workplace to conduct the sexual harassment inquiry. They cited Kim’s proximity to the previous U.S. lawyer and Bharara’s previous employment on the employees of U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, who, in March, had called for Cuomo to resign

“Preet Bharara has political aspirations, may have political aspirations against me,” Cuomo mentioned. “His rabbi, your rabbi, Senator Schumer called for my resignation. I mean, the concept of you as the resolution to the conflict as an independent reviewer is bizarre to me and raises ethical and legal questions.” 

‘Mean Girls’ and Starbucks

Across the halls of the state Capitol, a cadre of senior feminine aides was dubbed the “mean girls,” a reference to the 2004 film about highschool women who mesmerized and terrorized their classmates. 

Of their testimony to investigators, Cuomo and former aides acknowledged the existence of his administration’s “mean girls”: then-secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa, and prime aides Stephanie Benton, Annabel Walsh, Dani Lever and Jill DesRosiers.

Some of the ladies who labored for Cuomo advised investigators they believed the quintet fostered a poisonous office.

Ex-Cuomo aide Lindsey Boylan, the primary to publicly accuse him of sexual harassment, mentioned that DeRosa “used to have memes about the ‘Mean Girls’ movie and she liked the association of being that lead mean girl.” 

Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY
Lindsey Boylan throughout her marketing campaign for Manhattan borough president, June 17, 2021.

“They were very close to each other and they were very close with the governor. They would follow him or attend events with him. Most of them worked out of the New York City office. As he was coming up to Albany more they would come up with him,” mentioned former aide Brittany Commisso, whose accusations towards Cuomo prompted the felony grievance. 

“They would come up in the helicopter with him, they would go in the plane with him, they would travel with him. If they called you, you were to act like it was him calling you.”

Investigators requested Commisso when, if ever, she noticed DeRosa yell at or be harsh with any individual. “Quite a few times,” she responded.

“Melissa DeRosa is one of the meanest people I’ve met in my whole life,” mentioned Charlotte Bennett, who accused Cuomo of “grooming” her for intercourse and asking about her love life in March.

Charlotte Bennett/Twitter
Charlotte Bennett was a former government assistant in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s workplace.

“You can hear her screaming no matter where you’re sitting on the 39th floor [of Cuomo’s Manhattan office]. She could be on a phone call and you will know, and you could be on the other side of the floor,” she added.

Commisso advised investigators that Cuomo and DeRosa would typically ask her and different subordinates to fetch them espresso or meals. Bennett advised investigators {that a} earlier aide had spent “thousands of dollars on coffee” and acquired a Dunkin’ Donuts present card at his going away social gathering as a joke. 

DeRosa, Commisso advised investigators, would demand espresso from Starbucks, the closest of which Commisso mentioned was a 15-minute drive from the Capitol.

“She would ask us to get her Starbucks which we don’t have in the building, so that would mean that one of us would have to go in our cars and drive or we would ask one of the gentlemen who worked on the floor in the admin office if they could go pick it up for her,” Commisso advised investigators. “And if that wasn’t back in time she would say, ‘Where is my coffee?’ or ‘What is taking so long?’ She didn’t have a lot of patience with us.”

“The mean girls, they all started to — to be short with me because the governor had an interest and was bringing me around with him to events and I was staffing meetings with him and sitting with him and I was close to the governor,” one other aide recognized solely as Kaitlin testified.

Did They or Didn’t They?

It’s a query that’s been whispered in New York politics for years, however intensified as sexual harassment allegations had been leveled towards Cuomo final spring: Did the previous governor have a bodily relationship with any of the senior aides in his inside circle? 

In keeping with Cuomo, no. However that’s to not say he didn’t kiss any of them on the lips. 

Cuomo testified that over the course of a few years, he “could have kissed” one staffer, whose identify is redacted within the transcripts. 

“I don’t even remember all the situations that I’ve been in with her — the weddings, the deaths, funerals. Over [redacted] years could I have kissed her on the lips? Am I absolutely sure I never kissed her lips? No, I’m not absolutely sure I never kissed her on the lips,” he advised investigators. 

Cuomo listed a number of aides, some of whose names had been redacted, that he could be “uncomfortable” testifying below oath saying he by no means kissed them on the lips. 

They embody Walsh, a former aide who was included within the lawyer normal’s report in August for telling investigators that she and the governor kissed every now and then, however that she didn’t discover the kisses uncomfortable. 

Benton, the previous director of the governor’s places of work, advised investigators that she had sat on the governor’s lap throughout an occasion for members of the administration, in accordance with James’ August report. Within the newly launched transcripts, Cuomo doesn’t deny that Benton or Walsh might have sat on his lap. 

An unidentified state trooper testified that the unidentified Senior Staffer #1 and #2 “were basically living at the Governor’s Mansion” in Albany when the pandemic began in March 2020 till the autumn, when reviews surfaced that one of the governor’s daughters was relationship a state trooper. 

“Could they have had their own bedroom? Of course. But no one knows what’s going on behind closed doors,” the feminine trooper mentioned. “I know that they would be up at the pool house in bikinis and bathing suits. I don’t really know anyone who stays at their boss’s house like that.” 

The trooper additionally testified that an unnamed senior investigator had advised her that he witnessed the governor and Senior Staffer #1 “making out on the sidewalk like they were high schoolers,” she told investigators in May

A spokesperson for Cuomo, Wealthy Azzopardi, replied in a press release to THE CITY: “The trooper clearly testified about rumors that she heard but said that she had never seen such things. The rumors are just that: false gossip and on their face ridiculous.”

He added: “What is telling is that Tish James, who claimed to redact ‘embarrassing’ information from the transcript would release rumors in transcripts but redact relevant information which the public has a right to know. It is just more politics and prosecutorial misconduct from Tish James.”

Investigators requested Cuomo if he had kissed any males on the lips, to which he responded, “not purposefully” — however couldn’t keep in mind any specifics on who these males might be. 

The Cult of Cuomo

The query of whether or not Cuomo had a romantic relationship with members of his employees was additionally posed to some of the feminine aides who accused the governor of sexual harassment. Three of them mentioned that they heard rumors and had purpose to suspect one thing was happening between Cuomo and three high-ranking workers. 

Bennett mentioned she “was really confused” over the connection Cuomo had with the three unnamed staffers. 

“He would talk very casually with them. It didn’t seem like a professional relationship,” Bennett mentioned. 

In her interview, Kaitlin mentioned the governor’s conduct with some senior staffers felt “inappropriate and cultish” as they jockeyed for his consideration. 

“Some women would just be very casual and close to him, sitting closely on, like, the couch or with their arm around him.”

“Would he put his arm around any one of those women?” Kaitlin mused to investigators. “Probably, yeah.”

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