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New York attorney general releases former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s testimony and other documents from sexual harassment investigation

<i>Brendan McDermid/Pool/Getty Images</i><br/>The office of the New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday released a transcripts of investigators' interview with former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Getty Images
Brendan McDermid/Pool/Getty Images
The office of the New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday released a transcripts of investigators' interview with former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

By Gregory Krieg, Sonia Moghe and Brynn Gingras, CNN

The office of the New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday released a transcript of its investigators’ interview with former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, along with other documents and exhibits, from its investigation into the sexual harassment allegations that ultimately led to his resignation.

The documents included in the release were the basis for the August report that found Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women. A week after James submitted her findings, Cuomo — though denying any wrongdoing — announced he would step down after a decade in office.

Cuomo’s lawyer, Rita Glavin, has repeatedly called for the transcripts and other evidence collected by the attorney general’s investigators to be made public. The trove of newly released documents include many details featured in James’ report, but add new insight into Cuomo’s often combative demeanor as he came under questioning by the attorney general’s investigators. The former governor has, before and after announcing he would resign, described the probe — which he referred to James’ office — as politically motivated, a charge he has ramped up after James entered next year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary.

In his exchanges with investigators, Cuomo repeatedly rejected allegations against him or said, in more specific cases, that he did not remember potentially damaging claims. He argued in at least one case about the framing of a question, leading to a tense exchange over the definition of “girlfriend.” In all, the transcript of his 11-hour testimony from earlier this year goes on for 515 pages.

After being sworn in by Joon Kim, one of the independent investigators hired by James to conduct the probe, Cuomo was asked if he understood his rights — specifically, that he was not required to respond to questions if he believed they might be incriminating in a future criminal case. (The attorney general’s investigation was a civil matter.)

“I’m a former attorney general. I’m aware of the attorney general’s power,” Cuomo replied. “I’m aware of the special prosecutor power, independent investigator power, and I understand there may be subsequent investigations to this investigation, yes.”

Later on, Cuomo was asked whether he had compared the appearance of one of his accusers, Lindsey Boylan, to that of an ex-girlfriend. Cuomo recalled stating that Boylan looked like a “clone” of another woman he knew, but — in his denial — began a lengthy and, at times, absurd back-and-forth over the definition of “girlfriend.”

One of the investigators who carried out the questioning, Anne Clark, pressed Cuomo on whether the woman he said looked like Boylan, Lisa Shields, was ever his girlfriend.

“Was she my girlfriend,” Cuomo said, “meaning?”

When Clark asked Cuomo if he understood “what a girlfriend is,” the former governor replied, “Well, girlfriend means different things to difference people.”

Pressed twice on what it meant to him, Cuomo demurred again.

“It doesn’t matter what it means to me,” he said. “It matters what you want to know.”

When Boylan began tweeting about a “toxic work environment” in December 2020, Cuomo said he and his team consulted with “everyone and their mother,” including staffers, advisors, attorneys and advocacy groups.

“Because you need to say something. This is not an option, go say nothing. But obviously a high level of sensitivity has to be taken in what you say so that you don’t — you’re not perceived as attacking her for saying it,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo also invoked President Joe Biden during the discussion about his team’s response to Boylan’s claims. During the 2020 campaign, Biden had been accused of sexual misconduct by a former staffer in his Senate office. Biden repeatedly denied the allegation and, unlike Cuomo, was not the subject of multiple credible accusations.

Asked if it was his idea to try to attempt to “get women to sign on” to a statement of support, Cuomo did not directly answer but again pointed to Biden’s defense as a guide.

“I thought it was more effective than just me going out there saying, ‘No, none of this happened.’ I thought it was more effective to have female staff people say — make a statement,” Cuomo said. “That’s what Biden did. That’s what other politicians have done in this circumstance. I thought that was an effective vehicle.”

Biden called for Cuomo to resign after James put out her report.

In his interview, Cuomo also expressed contempt for Kim, a former federal prosecutor who during his time as the acting US attorney supervised several public corruption cases that put some of the most senior officials in Albany behind bars. Though Kim’s colleagues have frequently attested to his professionalism, Cuomo questioned Kim’s selection to help run the investigation.

“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,” Cuomo said. “The way you, then, have conducted the review itself I believe raises ethical and legal questions.”

Cuomo also took a shot at Preet Bharara, the former US attorney in Manhattan and a close friend of Kim, and made a curious reference to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

“Preet Bharara has political aspirations, may have political aspirations against me,” Cuomo said. “His rabbi, your rabbi, Senator Schumer called for my resignation.”

CNN has reached out to Schumer’s office for comment.

The former governor ended his marathon testimony with one last jab at Kim.

“I would like to say it was a pleasure, Mr. Kim,” Cuomo deadpanned. “But I’m under oath.”

On Wednesday evening, Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi responded to the release of the transcripts by again claiming that James was pursuing a political vendetta against the former governor and accusing her of overseeing a “slanted process.” Glavin, Cuomo’s attorney, later also questioned James’ motives, criticizing the attorney general in a statement for what she called a “slow-rolling and selective disclosure.” Cuomo, for his part, has tweeted a barrage of criticism and attacks on James and her investigation following release of the documents.

No legitimate law enforcement officer acts like this in a pending case,” Glavin said of James. “Disturbingly, this has never been about fairness or due process.”

James’ office, in an earlier statement accompanying the release, said that “multiple district attorneys” had previously requested the attorney general “refrain from publicly releasing transcripts and other evidence so that their offices could first investigate and determine whether to file criminal charges against Cuomo.”

But that changed, the attorney general’s office said, following the filing of a criminal complaint against Cuomo on October 28 by the Albany County sheriff. The fate of that case, in which Cuomo has been charged with forcible touching, is currently in flux after the district attorney described the complaint as “potentially defective” and asked the court in Albany to delay the process by 60 days while prosecutors continue their investigation.

The case in Albany County centers on allegations former executive assistant Brittany Commisso, who has accused Cuomo of groping her when they were alone in one of his offices inside the executive mansion.

In her testimony for the James report, Commisso made previously unreported claims that she believes Cuomo’s team had considered weaponizing her ongoing divorce in an effort to undermine her accusations against the governor.

“I definitely feel like in the beginning I was hearing rumors that he was saying we were having an affair and that was going to be his defense,” Commisso told investigators. “Obviously that is not true and I feel as though that (Cuomo counsel) Beth Garvey was asking about my relationship status to see if that was a route they could take to try to meddle in my divorce to try to get to, quote unquote, do his dirty work.”

CNN has reached out to Cuomo’s attorney for comment on Commisso’s allegation.

Last week, the district attorney questioned the validity of the criminal complaint filed by the sheriff’s office because it attached only a short excerpt of the transcript of Commisso’s testimony for the James report. He said the excerpt failed to include pieces of testimony from Commisso that could potentially be viewed as “exculpatory” in court, though he did not offer details about the extent or value of what had been left out.

“As these materials are now being released by the Albany County District Attorney’s office — and in an effort to provide full transparency to the people of New York — the OAG has informed local district attorneys that it will immediately begin releasing, on a rolling basis, all transcripts and corresponding exhibits compiled during the investigation, pending redactions to protect the privacy of individuals, as appropriate,” James’s office said.

This story has been updated with additional details Wednesday.

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