Governor Andrew Cuomo’s private attorney came out swinging Friday afternoon, attempting to cast doubt about the accuracy of Attorney General Letitia James’s bombshell sexual harassment report, setting the stage for a bitter impeachment fight in the coming weeks.
Attorney Rita Glavin spent nearly an hour arguing that Cuomo’s office hadn’t been given enough advance warning about the report’s release, that the attorney general hadn’t turned over the underlying evidence, and had deliberately excluded “contrary facts” in order to suit the report’s overarching narrative that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women and created a hostile work environment that enabled the abuse.
“The governor deserves to be treated fairly and he must be. That did not happen here,” she said. “This was one-sided and he was ambushed.”
In a series of bizarre examples laid out in a PowerPoint presentation broadcast on the state government’s website, Glavin, who is being paid with Cuomo’s campaign funds, seized on details she argued cast doubt on the report.
She wondered why investigators hadn’t tried to corroborate that a door in the governor’s mansion had been slammed by asking staffers on site if they had heard an echo. The door slamming was part of the testimony offered by Executive Assistant #1 who said Cuomo groped her under her blouse. (This assistant filed a criminal complaint with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday, raising the possibility of criminal charges against the governor.)
Glavin also wanted to know why interviews between James’s office and Lindsey Boylan’s staffers weren’t included in the report, attempting to undermine allegations made by Boylan, the first woman to come forward last winter with charges of sexual harassment against the governor.
“Ask them,” was Glavin’s regular refrain, referring to the outside investigators retained by the attorney general, at least one of whom, she suggested, was biased against Cuomo.
She seized on details in the report, while ignoring some of the most damning findings entirely. For instance, Glavin did not mention former staffer Charlotte Bennett. The AG’s report showed that notes from Cuomo’s staff confirmed Bennett’s account of sexual harassment.
Glavin also didn’t bring up the harassment described by the state trooper who said Cuomo made repeated sexual comments and rubbed her body twice when she served on his private security detail.
When prodded by a reporter about the trooper’s account, Glavin focused on the process by which she’d been promoted to Cuomo’s personal security detail, rather than the allegations themselves. She used a line of defense explored and discredited by the attorney general’s report: that Cuomo hired her in an effort to increase diversity on his security detail.
Glavin said Cuomo plans to address the state trooper’s allegations directly “soon,” though she didn’t say when that might be.
Her presentation largely was a plea to give her embattled client a chance to defend himself, and to consider his years of service to the state of New York when weighing these allegations. A Quinnipiac poll published Friday suggested 70% of New Yorkers think Cuomo should resign.
Glavin also appealed directly to the lawmakers who are in the midst of an impeachment inquiry. The Assembly’s judiciary committee is slated to meet Monday morning to begin considering articles of impeachment against Cuomo.
“You can’t prejudge this,” Glavin said. “I am guessing that members of the Assembly and the senate did not know some of the things that we’ve shared today. And I hope that would give them pause.”
Some members of the Assembly, however, were not swayed by Glavin’s efforts.
“The Governor is in complete freefall,” said Republican Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay. “Today’s desperate attempt to offer more explanations and excuses won’t change any minds, nor will it change the course that ends with his removal from office.”
Asked to respond to Glavin’s complaints, Fabien Levy, advisor to Attorney General James said they’re producing transcripts and will provide them to the Assembly.
“There are 11 women whose accounts have been corroborated by a mountain of evidence,” he said. “Any suggestion that attempts to undermine the credibility of these women or this investigation is unfortunate.”