ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo is questioning the trustworthiness of the lawyers leading state Attorney General Tish James’ investigation into several allegations made against him in recent months.
“Look at who the independent investigators are,” Cuomo said Monday at a press event at Yankee Stadium, referring to the outside attorneys James hired for the probe. “Do a little history, go to Google … and tell me what you see.”
James retained Joon Kim and Anne Clark to conduct her office’s probe. Kim’s resume includes a stint as a federal prosecutor, a role in which he led the case against top Cuomo aide Joe Percoco, who was convicted on corruption charges on 2018 and sentenced to six years in prison.
He was also involved into the investigation over Cuomo’s shuttering of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption in 2014, which did not result in any charges.
“I have concerns as to the independence of the reviewers,” Cuomo said. “Is this all happening in a political system? Yes, that is undeniable.”
James is looking into allegations of sexual harassment made against the governor earlier this year, along with several other issues.
Monday’s comments were Cuomo’s most direct remarks about the trustworthiness of the looming report from James. While his office has spent weeks attempting to characterize it as politically driven, most of these attempts have come from his staff.
It also represented a bit of a rhetorical shift in how his administration has preemptively attempted to diminish the report. Cuomo did not directly assail James or her possible gubernatorial aspirations (she has never indicated that she run for governor next year, when Cuomo could run for a fourth term), and instead was focused on the people she hired.
“I believe in New Yorkers,” Cuomo said. “They know what these reviews entail, and who’s involved, and when they get the facts. I am very confident that they will be shocked at what they have heard about this versus what they know about it. And I’m confident that when they get the facts, they’re going to understand exactly what happened.”
Assembly Judiciary Chair Charles Lavine (D-Nassau), who is leading his house’s impeachment probe of the governor, warned the Cuomo administration last week over its attempts to diminish James’ investigation. He said that “attempts to demean the Attorney General serve … to undermine the investigation and send profoundly negative signals to witnesses.”
The governor’s office brushed off that warning, saying that “there is a clear difference between actionable retaliation and protected speech and it is clear that the Chairman doesn’t understand the difference.”
On Monday, Cuomo seemed to characterize Lavine’s probe in terms more friendly than those he used to discuss the attorney general’s.
“The Assembly investigation is broader and has a broader mandate, and is independent,” he said.