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Investigators find "overwhelming evidence" Cuomo "engaged in sexual harassment," staff "revised" COVID-19 death reports

Transcripts released in Cuomo investigation
Transcripts released in Cuomo harassment investigation 02:21

A lengthy investigation into a variety of allegations against former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has found "overwhelming evidence" that Cuomo "engaged in sexual harassment."

The investigation, which was authorized by the New York State Assembly Judiciary Committee, also concluded Cuomo's staff devoted state resources to the production of his 2020 memoir and "substantially revised" state COVID-19 reports "to combat criticisms" of Cuomo's handling of nursing homes battling the pandemic.

The law firm that conducted the investigation, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, was hired in March as part of an impeachment probe on the Assembly's behalf, but that effort was halted after Cuomo resigned in August. Cuomo's nearly three-term tenure crashed a week after a separate investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James accused him of sexually harassing 11 women.

Cuomo has largely denied wrongdoing, but was not interviewed by investigators from Davis Polk & Wardwell. Investigators for Davis Polk reviewed approximately 600,000 pages of documents and interviewed or received testimony from more than 200 people.

A spokesperson for Cuomo called the report "hypocritical" and "revisionist" in a statement Monday.

"To date we have not been allowed the opportunity to review evidence in the Assembly's possession, despite requests to do so and due process was certainly not afforded here," said the spokesperson, Rich Azzopardi.

Sexual harassment

The report delves deepest into two sets of sexual harassment allegations made against Cuomo, made by a New York State trooper who worked on his security detail, and by Brittany Commisso, a former aide whose groping allegation has led to a criminal charge filed by the Albany County sheriff.

Investigators wrote that colleagues of the trooper who accused Cuomo of harassment corroborated her testimony. The trooper said misbehavior by Cuomo included "running his finger slowly down her spine, running his hand across her stomach, kissing and hugging her, and making numerous inappropriate and offensive comments," according to the report.

Investigators also cited "new evidence" that corroborates Commisso's account. She said in an August CBS News interview the then-governor groped her breast in December 2019.

The investigators wrote "Commisso did not have access" to the new evidence corroborating her testimony — including phone logs, text messages and records of employee ID badge swipes into and out of the Executive Mansion.

Investigators wrote that Commisso's recollection of seemingly minute details from the day "indicates that an out-of-the-ordinary incident occurred on that date, and further corroborates Ms. Commisso's allegations."

"We have turned this evidence over to law enforcement," they wrote.

Azzopardi criticized the report's findings related to Commisso's allegations in his statement Monday.

"The fact that an employee entered and exited the Executive Mansion as part of her job was never in dispute and once again this report offers no evidence to support any allegation," Azzopardi said.

COVID-19 nursing home deaths

The report concludes that while state reports on nursing home deaths at the height of the pandemic were released "under the auspices of" the state's Department of Health, "it was substantially revised by the Executive Chamber and largely intended to combat criticisms regarding former Governor Cuomo's directive that nursing homes should readmit residents that had been diagnosed with COVID-19."

They wrote that the Cuomo administration chose to report only deaths that occurred inside nursing facilities, withholding those that occurred outside the homes — for instance, people who were transferred to hospitals before their deaths. That decision ultimately minimized the extent to which COVID was ravaging New York nursing homes in 2020, the investigation concluded.

Cuomo's memoir

Even as COVID was killing thousands in New York, Cuomo began negotiating a deal worth millions to publish a book about his leadership during the pandemic. Cuomo has long said any staff who worked on the book were "volunteers," a claim reiterated Monday by Azzopardi. The investigators concluded that state resources and paid staff hours were devoted to the book.

"Certain senior state officials worked extensively on the book," investigators wrote, "including attending meetings with agents and publishers, transcribing and drafting portions of the book, coordinating the production and promotion of the book, and participating in working sessions to review and finalize the book."

They cite a "senior state official" who said "book-related assignments were given by superiors and expected to be completed, and the work was not voluntary."

Investigators noted that Cuomo's book contract guaranteed him $5.2 million in royalty advances, plus additional payments if the book sold well.

On November 16, a New York State ethics panel voted Tuesday to rescind its 2020 approval of the book, potentially setting up a legal showdown over millions of dollars in proceeds. 

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