New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed almost a dozen women, including employees in his office, and violated state and federal laws, according to the findings of an investigation by the state attorney general’s office.
The embattled governor denied the accusations and vowed that he will "not be distracted" from his job, but within hours of the report's release, Democratic leadership, including longtime Cuomo ally President Joe Biden, demanded he step down.
"I think he should resign," Biden said.
The investigation found that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, nine of whom are current and former state employees — and one of whom is a New York State trooper. "None of them welcomed it and all of them found it uncomfortable," New York Attorney General Letitia James told reporters Tuesday.
In one case he grabbed an executive assistant by the buttocks and groped her under her shirt, and he fondled the state trooper, the report found.
The 165-page report also found the governor and his team retaliated against a former employee for coming forward, and that they fostered a "toxic" work environment.
In a statement the Albany County, N.Y. district attorney's office said it has an ongoing criminal investigation into Cuomo’s conduct, and they will be formally requesting investigative materials from the AG’s office.
"The facts are much different than has been portrayed," he said. "I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances."
He suggested the report was tainted by "bias" and portrayed himself as a protector of women.
"For those who are using this moment to score political points, or seek publicity or personal gain, I say they actually discredit the legitimate sexual harassment victims that the law was designed to protect," Cuomo said.
He went on to say that he would hire more trainers to prevent office harassment: "I want New York State government to be a model of office behavior, and I brought in an expert to design new sexual harassment policy and procedures, and to train the whole team, myself included.”
Cuomo, a Democrat in his third term, has rebuffed calls to step down and repeatedly denied wrongdoing, initially predicting that the probe by James' office would exonerate him. It did the opposite.
“This is a sad day for New York because independent investigators have concluded that Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and, in doing so, broke the law,” said James, whose office questioned 179 people and reviewed over 74,000 documents in the months-long probe.
Multiple Democrats in Washington, Albany and New York City quickly issued calls for the governor to step down, and the process of impeaching him gained momentum.
State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat who'd previously called on Cuomo to resign, said in a statement, "Now that the investigation is complete and the allegations have been substantiated, it should be clear to everyone that he can no longer serve as governor."
State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat who authorized the Judiciary Committee to begin an impeachment investigation into Cuomo in March, said it's clear the governor "has lost the confidence of the Assembly Democratic majority and that he can no longer remain in office."
"Once we receive all relevant documents and evidence from the Attorney General, we will move expeditiously and look to conclude our impeachment investigation as quickly as possible," Heastie said. Any impeachment proceeding would start in his chamber of the legislature.
James said she would cooperate with the Assembly's investigation "as needed.”
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who would become governor if Cuomo resigned, said in a pair of tweets that James' probe "has documented repulsive & unlawful behavior by the Governor" and that "I believe these brave women."
"Under the New York Constitution, the Assembly will now determine the next steps. Because Lieutenant Governors stand next in the line of succession, it would not be appropriate to comment further on the process at this moment," she wrote.
James's investigators detailed in graphic terms instances of harassment they say Cuomo perpetuated, including making sexual comments and grabbing women.
Cuomo is accused of "a pattern of inappropriate conduct" with a staff member described as "Executive Assistant #1," which included kissing her on the lips at least once, grabbing her buttocks during hugs, asking multiple times about whether she had cheated or would cheat on her husband and once reaching under her blouse and grabbing her breast, according to the report.
The report corroborates allegations made by numerous women who'd already come forward, and also includes accounts from previously unknown victims, including a state trooper who Cuomo had requested be his assigned to his security detail after seeing her at an event.
Cuomo harassed the trooper on a number of occasions, the report found.
In one instance, Cuomo ran "his hand across her stomach, from her belly button to her right hip," as she held a door open, the report states. While she was standing in front of him on an elevator, he ran "his finger down her back, from the top of her neck down her spine to the middle of her back, saying 'hey, you,'" the report states.
In another instance, he is accused of "kissing her (and only her) on the cheek in front of another trooper and asking to kiss her on another occasion, which she deflected." Other troopers corroborated the accounts.
The report also included an encounter Cuomo had with a woman named Virginia Limmiatis at a conservation event in upstate New York in 2017.
Limmiatis was waiting to the meet the governor and other attendees at the event and was wearing a shirt with the name of the energy company she worked for written across the chest.
When Cuomo spoke to her, "he ran two fingers across her chest, pressing down on each of the letters as he did so and reading out the name of the Energy Company as he went. The Governor then leaned in, with his face close to Ms. Limmiatis’s cheek, and said, 'I’m going to say I see a spider on your shoulder,' before brushing his hand in the area between her shoulder and breasts (and below her collarbone)," the report says.
Cuomo and his office also retaliated against the first woman who spoke out publicly about how she'd been treated by the governor, Lindsey Boylan, a deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to Cuomo from 2015 to 2018.
Boylan wrote in an essay on the website Medium that she had been subjected to "pervasive harassment" when she worked for him, including being asked to "play strip poker" and receiving an unwanted kiss on the mouth.
After she first tweeted allegations about having been sexually harassed by the governor in December, Cuomo and people in his office "actively engaged in an effort to discredit her, including by disseminating to the press confidential internal documents that painted her in a negative light and circulating among a group of current and former Executive Chamber employees (although not ultimately publishing) a proposed op-ed or letter disparaging Ms. Boylan that the Governor personally participated in drafting," the report found.
'Light on injustice'
James's investigators interviewed Cuomo as part of their probe.
"Where the Governor made specific denials of conduct that the complainants recalled clearly," the report said, "we found his denials to lack credibility and to be inconsistent with the weight of the evidence obtained during our investigation."
James summed up the probe by saying it "revealed conduct that corrodes the very fabric and character of our state government and shines light on injustice that can be present at the highest level of government."
The report noted that Cuomo and his office had violated their own policies by not immediately reporting and investigating the allegations of harassment themselves.
The attorney general did not announce any charges, saying that the women could pursue civil suits or that local police departments and prosecutors could review their findings.
"We have issued a report and all throughout the process we put our heads down, we've done our job. And at this point...we're going to allow the chips to call where they may," James said.
James' office began an official investigation into Cuomo in March, right before Anna Ruch, 33, told The New York Times that she felt "uncomfortable and embarrassed" when Cuomo placed his hands on her face and asked to kiss her at a wedding in 2019.
In answering a question on what the public should take away from the report, James replied, "That these 11 women were in a hostile and toxic work environment, and that we should believe women."