WSJ: Cuomo Aides Subpoenaed In Sexual Harassment Investigation

NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2020/05/30: Governor Andrew Cuomo makes an announcement and holds media briefing on COVID-19 response and comments on violent protests on George Flyod death in the city at New Settlement Community Center, Bronx. (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) holds a media briefing on COVID-19 at New Settlement Community Center, Bronx on May 30, 2020. (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The New York state attorney general’s office has subpoenaed dozens of Cuomo administration officials, including top aide, Melissa DeRosa, for its investigation into sexual harassment claims against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), the Wall Street Journal reported late Friday.

Investigators in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ probe into sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo requested documents earlier this month from DeRosa, among others, people familiar with the matter told WSJ. 

Cuomo’s accusers and their lawyers told the paper that investigators for the attorney general have also questioned women accusing the three-term governor of inappropriate behavior about their interactions with DeRosa, who rose to a top staff position in state government in 2017, overseeing the governor’s Executive Chamber and other state agencies. 

Ana Liss, a former aide to Cuomo who has accused him of misconduct, told the paper that during an interview with investigators, she was asked about DeRosa’s behavior in the workplace, probing how Cuomo’s secretary interacted with her.

“They were trying to figure out if I was targeted by Melissa,” Liss told WSJ.

She told investigators she didn’t have many interactions with DeRosa, who at the time was Cuomo’s director of communications. Liss previously said she received a call in December which she saw as intimidating from senior adviser Rich Azzopardi asking if she had heard from Cuomo’s first accuser, Lindsey Boylan. 

DeRosa had been part of a group of aides who called people to ask questions about Boylan and had also drafted a letter that referenced Boylan’s personnel records.

The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James which is managing the investigation hasn’t accused DeRosa who has been a member of Cuomo’s staff since 2013 of any wrongdoing. 

Paul Fishman, a lawyer representing the Cuomo administration, issued a statement obtained by WSJ warning against speculation about the request for documents which he said was routine practice.

“No one should be surprised that the AG’s office is issuing requests for documents and interviewing witnesses, including many who work for the governor,” Fishman said. “That happens in every investigation, and it’s wildly premature to speculate what it means. Good, thorough, and fair investigations take time.”

The governor has repeatedly denied that he ever touched anybody inappropriately and has said he is cooperating with inquiries into the claims of sexual harassment and investigations into his administration’s handling of COVID-19 data related to nursing home deaths. 

The New York General Assembly committee is separately advancing an impeachment inquiry into Cuomo, that will focus on sexual harassment and nursing home data, but will also investigate reports that Cuomo’s administration provided special access to COVID-19 testing in the early stage of the pandemic.

DeRosa had also taken part in the state’s pandemic response and the administration’s delay in releasing the full nursing homes death toll due to coronavirus.

In a statement responding to questions from WSJ, DeRosa recounted how painful it was to call family members  of health care workers who had died.

“The last thing I would do in my day is call family members of healthcare workers who died and tell them I’m sorry for their pain, and then close the door, lay on the floor and cry,” she said. “I am not the one-dimensional person that has been portrayed in the press.”

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