(CN) — Commissioned to study the grounds for removing New York's then-governor from office, the Judiciary Committee of the New York Assembly issued a damning report Monday that says Andrew Cuomo engaged in sexual harassment, used state resources to publish a self-aggrandizing book and obscured the death toll that state nursing homes experienced at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although Cuomo pledged to cooperate with the investigation, the report compiled by the firm Davis, Polk and Wardwell says he ultimately refused “to comply in any meaningful way with the Committee’s request and subpoenas."
“The former governor’s conduct — as shown in this report — is extremely disturbing and is indicative of someone who is not fit for office,” Committee Chair Charles Lavine said in a statement.
Speaker Carl Heastie commissioned the investigation in the wake of a report from New York Attorney General Letitia James, who has since announced that she will be running herself for governor in the next election. The August report from James concluded that Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, but Cuomo has remained dogged in his denials, insisting that the report was a political hit job.
Cuomo's resignation briefly waylaid the committee's probe following input from Heastie that the New York Constitution does not authorize the Legislature to impeach and remove an elected official who is no longer in office. Three months later, the report still attempts to navigate around the multiple criminal investigations into Cuomo’s conduct as governor, noting its cooperating with law enforcement is ongoing.
“We remain committed to the integrity of those investigations and avoiding any action that would compromise them,” the report states, with a separate note that cites reliance on about 600,000 documents and interviews from 212 individuals.
Regarding the sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo, the report says that evidence showed “overwhelming support.”
“The former Governor has challenged these women’s allegations, attempting to analyze them without context and dismissing single incidents as conduct that does not rise to the level of sexual harassment,” the report says. “Such an approach obscures the totality of the former Governor’s conduct toward women, not only in the Executive Chamber but in the workplace more broadly, and even toward his constituents.”
Another bombshell that the report explores is the timing of Cuomo's July 6, 2020, meeting with Penguin Random House about a potential book deal.
That same day, the Department of Health issued a report on the effect the pandemic had on the state’s nursing home residents with edits from the governor’s office that obscured the true effects on those individuals.
While the Department of Health’s scientific paper was going to say about 10,000 nursing home residents died from Covid-19, Cuomo directed that number be changed to about 6,500 deaths — removing the deaths of nursing home residents that occurred in other facilities, say, a hospital.
According to the report, this was done to rebut criticisms the governor was facing for a directive he issued in March that ordered nursing homes to admit individuals infected with Covid-19 in order to free up hospital resources.
Meanwhile, Cuomo’s book, "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic," glorified Cuomo's early pandemic response. It was a book deal that netted the governor $5.2 million in royalty advances from the book’s publisher, even while Cuomo said in at least one interview the income from the book contingent on its sales.
“Our investigation evidences that the Book was the product of significant work performed by Executive Chamber staff during a time of a global pandemic requiring an around-the-clock response,” the report says.
The Joint Committee on Public Ethics had told Cuomo that he was not to use public resources to write the book.
Monday's report says junior staff of the executive chamber compiled information for the book, delivered documents and transcribed dictation. Senior executive officials of the executive chamber meanwhile participated in the editing process, according to the report, which says they discussed proposed edits with the publisher. One staff member, the key contact for the book, sent and received about 1,000 emails regarding it.
“During the drafting, there was particular attention paid to the nursing home section of the book, and a senior executive chamber official noted that this section was ‘critically important,’” the report says.
Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi focused on these findings in a statement that blasts the report as revisionist and hypocritical.
“The truth will come out,” Azzopardi said in a statement, insisting that Cuomo’s staffers took time off to help him write the book and that it is common among assembly members to let their staffs volunteer for their political campaigns.
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