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New York politicians are increasingly calling for Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign after a second former aide accused him of sexual harassment. Cuomo issued an apology over the weekend, but New York Attorney General Letitia James will lead an investigation into the allegations. CBS News national correspondent Jericka Duncan joined "CBSN AM" with the latest.
- New York politicians are increasingly calling for Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign after a second former aide accused him of sexual harassment. Mr. Cuomo issued a few statements over the weekend, including an apology last night. Jericka Duncan is following the latest. Jericka, what happens now.
JERICKA DUNCAN: Good morning, Anne-Marie. You know, the attorney general is now taking over this case. This was after she denied the governor's request to choose a private investigator. Essentially she will now oversee a law firm that will have the power to subpoena.
Charlotte Bennett laid out allegations of harassment against Governor Andrew Cuomo in the New York Times, events that she says took place over several months. In one encounter last June, Bennett said Cuomo asked if she was romantically involved, whether she was monogamous in her relationships, and if she had ever had sex with older men. The 25-year-old former executive assistant added "I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared." Yesterday the governor apologized, writing. "I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal. Some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry." Alessandra Biaggi is chair of the state senate's Ethics Committee, and worked in the governor's office in 2017.
ALLESANDRA BIAGGI: He's actually saying that he meant for those words to be playful. And there is no realm of playful when a governor of a state asks a young staffer who is 25 years old if she has sex with older men or if she has sex outside of her relationship. That is not only inappropriate, it is abusive.
JERICKA DUNCAN: The allegations have led to swift calls for an investigation from many prominent Democrats, including President Joe Biden.
JEN PSAKI: President Biden has been consistent that he believes that every woman should be heard, should be treated with respect and with dignity.
JERICKA DUNCAN: New York Attorney General Letitia James will lead that investigation into Bennett's claims and those of another former aide, Lindsay Boylan. In a post last week, Boylan alleged Cuomo once kissed her on the mouth without permission. Cuomo has denied all of Boylan's claims.
ALLESANDRA BIAGGI: That behavior from the Governor is the exact behavior that prevents us from having good governance. It impacts policy. The lack of just being able to acknowledge that either mistakes are made or that certain behavior is harmful to others is highly problematic of someone who holds the office that is the highest office of the state of New York.
JERICKA DUNCAN: One of the biggest concerns for Biaggi is that she said governors typically have a lot of power when it comes to these investigations within the state. But she's also hopeful that the Attorney General's involvement in this case will lead to more transparency, Anne-Marie.
- So then, what happens next in this investigation of Governor Cuomo. Could he be facing any legal ramifications, or is it strictly sort of the political fallout?
JERICKA DUNCAN: Well, it's clear how serious this is for Governor Cuomo, because on Saturday he issued a statement basically asking New Yorkers to be patient and wait for this to play out. So there has to be this thorough investigation, of course, but you have people that are calling for his resignation. There's talk about possibly impeaching the Governor. But the last time a Governor in the state of New York was impeached was in 1913. And then there's also talk about getting rid of the governor's unilateral powers, emergency powers, that the legislature gave him because of the pandemic. So there are some options that could happen. But I think at this point people are interested in hearing from the Governor, interested and knowing more about these allegations, and finding out if there are emails or other people that were around to support what these two women have accused the governor of saying and doing at this point.
- What else did state Senator Biaggi say about her time working for the Governor, and is there a possibility that she could be testifying in an investigation like this?
JERICKA DUNCAN: You know, I'm not sure if she's going to testify. That's something we actually did not ask he-- if she was asked to be a witness or testify about her experience. She didn't spend a lot of time in the Governor's Office. And when I asked her about the specifics, what did you experience, she really talked about it being a hostile work environment, and saying that she believed it started from the top. So that was her experience. She didn't say that she ever had any, you know, sexual harassment-type of experience as described by these two accusers in the Governor Cuomo case. But she did say that she felt tense, she was stressed out, and it actually is what made her, after seeing what goes on the inside, want to run for State Senate. But really described it as a hostile work environment situation for her.
- That is interesting. So Jericka, this first accuser, Lindsay Boylan, accused the governor of sexual harassment in December. And it seemed like at the time, the allegations were raised, from an outsider's point of view, it seemed like there was nothing-- no one pursued them. And so I'm curious as to why it is now that her accusations of inappropriate workplace conduct are being taken seriously-- not just hers, but others.
JERICKA DUNCAN: That's a great question, and it's also one that I posed to State Senator Biaggi. You know, she wasn't necessarily calling for his resignation until this second accuser came forward, and she pretty much said that it speaks to her to a pattern and she believes this woman. She believes Charlotte Bennett. And I think when you look at the dynamics, too, you have Boylan who said that he forced a kiss on me and then you have Charlotte Bennett's claims that are a little bit more descriptive. You know, she's 25 years old, and she's saying that the governor asked her you know are you interested in having sex with older men? Are you interested in having monogamous relationships? So I think it's the devil in the details, if you will. We're hearing more about it. Again, she's 25 years old. Governor Cuomo is 63. And I think people are looking at all of this on top of that federal inquiry that the governor is facing into the coronavirus related deaths of the nursing home, and questions about whether or not his administration, or he, played a role and downplaying the numbers of COVID-related deaths in nursing homes early on in this pandemic.
So you have a number of factors that are piling on. And I think, having covered cases like this in the past, now you wait to see if other people might come forward to say this happened to me too, as well. It's a wait and see issue, if you will, or case. But most importantly, there is this independent investigation that will be happening led by the Attorney General's office. And we'll be waiting and watching to see what comes out of that.
- Yeah that's so true. You know, Jericka, often when accusers feel like they will be taken seriously, and there are others who are willing to sort of put their reputation on the line, people come forward. So yeah, we will be watching. Jericka, thank you very much.