New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s team on Sunday appears to be backing away from their pick to oversee an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against him after state Attorney General Letitia James, the White House and others demanded the probe be conducted independently after a second former aide stepped forward.
James said in a statement to Fox News that she was calling for a referral from Cuomo to independently investigate allegations of sexual harassment. Under state law, that can only be accomplished “through an official referral from the governor’s office” and “must include subpoena power,” she said.
“Allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously,” James said. “There must be a truly independent investigation to thoroughly review these troubling allegations against the governor, and I stand ready to oversee that investigation and make any appointments necessary.”
But representatives for Cuomo’s office shot back with a separate statement claiming they have already backed away from their choice to oversee the probe, clearing the way for James and the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals to select an independent lawyer to create a public report on the allegations.
“We had selected former Federal Judge Barbara Jones, with a stellar record for qualifications and integrity, but we want to avoid even the perception of a lack of independence or inference of politics,” Beth Garvey, special counsel and senior adviser to the governor, said in a statement provided to Fox News.
“Accordingly we have asked the Attorney General of New York State and the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals to jointly select an independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation to conduct a thorough review of the matter and issue a public report,” she continued. “The work product will be solely controlled by that independent lawyer personally selected by the Attorney General and Chief Judge.
“All members of the Governor’s office will cooperate fully. We will have no further comment until the report is issued.”
In a shorter statement, she added, “We will leave all decisions concerning the investigation to be made in the discretion of the independent counsel selected by the Attorney General and Chief Judge.”