Ex-federal prosecutor Preet Bharara rapped Gov. Andrew Cuomo Wednesday for his handling of the growing sexual harassment scandal.
“He’s not in the position he wants to be in,” Bharara said of Cuomo in a CNN interview.
“He tried to pick the investigator. Then he tried to pick the people who pick the investigator,” Bharara, the former US Attorney for the Southern District in Manhattan, said.
Bharara was referring to Cuomo’s rejected bid to have a retired federal judge with connections to a top adviser investigate sexual harassment accusations leveled against him by two former employees in his administration — Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett.
Cuomo, a former state attorney general, then recommended that AG James and the state Court of Appeals chief Judge Janet DiFiore — a Cuomo appointee — jointly pick an independent investigator.
James rejected the involvement of the chief judge, arguing she should have the sole legal authority as the state’s chief law enforcement officer to oversee the Cuomo probe. The governor relented and gave her a referral to investigate him.
“He has no choice but to see what happens with the [state Attorney General Letitia James’]’s investigation,” Bharara told Wolf Blitzer.
Bharara knows Cuomo and the way he operates better than most. He launched a probe into the governor’s abrupt shutdown of a commission the governor created to investigate public corruption.
He did not bring charges.
But Bharara won convictions against former top Cuomo aide and confidante Joe Percoco and lobbyist-pal Todd Howe for public corruption involving his economic development programs.
Bharara said Cuomo, during his mea culpa press conference, “seems to be conceding saying some of the things alleged” by the women concerning harassment.
Former Cuomo staffer Lindsey Boylan, 36, was the first woman to come forward, alleging last month that Cuomo kissed her on the lips without warning, and suggested that they spend a flight playing strip poker. Cuomo denied her claims.
Days later, fellow former staffer Charlotte Bennett, 25, accused Cuomo of subjecting her to a series of off-color remarks and questions about her sex life, leaving her convinced that the governor was in pursuit of a relationship with her.
And on Monday, Anna Ruch, 33, alleged that Cuomo grabbed her at a 2019 wedding, put his hands on her face and kissed her on the cheek even as she tried to pull away, with part of the interaction caught on camera.
Bharara said the Cuomo probe should be straightforward with interviews and collection of records.
But Bharara said investigating someone powerful like Cuomo — with a “price to pay” mentality who threatens revenge on those who cross him — poses a challenge.
“He uses authority in a way that causes people to be fearful,” Bharara said.
As for Cuomo’s partial apology issued on Wednesday, Bharara said “he seems to be conceding saying some of the things alleged” by at least one of the women.
During an Albany press briefing, an “embarrassed” Cuomo said that he was sorry “if [his accusers] were offended,” indicated that he was specifically apologizing to one of the three women, Bennett, and insisted that he never touched anyone inappropriately.