Eric Schneiderman Is Our Duke Of The Week

TPM Illustration. Photo by Getty Images/Drew Angerer
May 12, 2018 12:46 p.m.

Early on Monday evening, two of New York’s most formidable reporters, Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow, reported allegations that state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman beat at least four women he was romantically involved with while intoxicated behind closed doors, leading more than one to seek medical attention. Three hours after the report was published, Schneiderman, one of the most prominent thorns in President Trump’s side and, in public, an advocate for women, stepped down.

By the following evening, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had appointed a special prosecutor, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, to look into Schneiderman’s case. The former AG could now face charges under a law strengthening the penalties for strangulation that he himself proposed and championed while a state senator.

This is one irony in a story that abounds with them. Schneiderman, for instance, was taking legal action against Harvey Weinstein. Yet his own downfall has become one of the most startling of the #MeToo era, which was kicked off by the allegations against Weinstein.

In Farrow and Mayer’s reporting, and in a separate story published in The New York Post, Schneiderman comes off as drunk on his own power (in addition to often being drunk). “I am the law,” he reportedly declared to former partner Michelle Manning Barish, justifying his decision to jaywalk. While driving drunk through the Hamptons, he allegedly told one date, who spoke to the New York Post anonymously, “I’m a state senator, and I rule this neighborhood.” The women who spoke to The New Yorker said he used this power to threaten them, warning he could have their phones tapped, have them followed, and even that he would kill them.

The irony here, of course, is that Scheiderman, now revealed as a bully, bullied other bullies while Attorney General. He opened one of the first investigations into U.S. oil companies who denied climate change publicly while their own scientists grappled with the reality. He made a show of taking on big banks following the financial crisis (though, by some measures, he didn’t deliver — to the left’s chagrin, no bankers were subpoenaed to explain themselves). And he sued Trump University for defrauding its students.

For this hypocrisy, Schneiderman is TPM’s Duke of the Week.

For years, TPM has given a series of annual Golden Duke awards. Named for disgraced former member of Congress Randy “Duke” Cunningham, the award honors a politician who has distinguished themselves with a display of corruption or abuse of power.

This year, we’ve decided to begin giving the award weekly lest we be overwhelmed with worthy candidates at year’s end.

These awards are often humorous, such as the story of former Rep. Steve Stockman, who spent Republican megadonors’ money on harebrained schemes, tanning salons and dolphin boat rides.

Schneiderman’s abuse of power, however, is no laughing matter.

It also comes with a weird coda. Yesterday, the news broke that Trump and Michael Cohen — who has been many news cycles’ Forrest Gump these last few weeks, popping up in places we never would have imagined — may have known about allegations of abuse against Schneiderman as early as 2013.

Two women who had been “sexually victimized” by Schneiderman — different women than spoke to the New Yorker — approached Attorney Peter Gleason in 2012 and 2013. Gleason cautioned them against going to Manhattan District Attorney (and former Golden Duke winner) Cy Vance, who Gleason believed would not help them (and who Gleason would later attempt to unseat). Instead, for reasons that are unclear, Gleason told their story to a New York Post reporter, who relayed the allegations to the Trump Organization. Trump’s personal attorney, Cohen, then called Gleason and discussed the allegations with him.

The story suggests that while Schneiderman was leading an investigation into Trump University and, later, being celebrated as a hero of the resistance, Trump may have had compromising info on him. And Schneiderman may have known it. Muddying the waters further, around this time, Schneiderman, according to Cohen and Trump, collected campaign donations from Trumpworld. Trump said in an affidavit that he gave Schneiderman $12,500 and introduced him to other potential donors. Cohen said he gave Schneiderman $1,000 and, according to Cohen, Schneiderman “repeatedly assured” him that the Trump University investigation “was going nowhere.”

Later that year, Trump tweeted “Weiner is gone, Spitzer is gone — next will be lightweight A.G. Eric Schneiderman. Is he a crook? Wait and see, worse than Spitzer or Weiner.”

It’s unclear who knew what, when, and what was done with the information. But it is clear that Schneiderman’s victims had been coming forward years before the New Yorker article was published — years before Schneiderman had even met and allegedly attacked some of the women who were The New Yorker’s sources. The whole story is a rats’ nest of once and future Dukes, with two alleged sexual predators — Trump and Schneiderman — at the center.

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