A special counselor to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a statement on Sunday asking the state's attorney general and chief judge to jointly pick an "independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation" to investigate claims of sexual harassment against the governor.
The state of play: The statement is an about-face from Cuomo, who had previously selected a former judge close to a top aide to lead the investigation, the New York Times reported, a move that was widely criticized.
Details: Beth Garvey, special counselor to Cuomo, said the governor's office has asked James' office and the chief judge of the Court of Appeals "to jointly select an independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation to conduct a thorough review of the matter and issue a public report."
- In a separate statement, Attorney General Letitia James endorsed an "independent investigation to thoroughly review these troubling allegations against the governor" and said that she stands "ready to oversee that investigation and make any appointments necessary."
- James made clear the investigation not only needed to be independent but also have clear power to subpoena witnesses.
- "Given state law, this can only be accomplished through an official referral from the governor’s office and must include subpoena power. I urge the governor to make this referral immediately," James said.
Driving the news: The announcements come after President Biden, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and other leading Democrats called for an independent review into the sexual harassment accusations from two of his former aides.
Catch up quick: Charlotte Bennett, a former health policy adviser and executive assistant to Cuomo prior to her departure in November, alleges that Cuomo asked her questions about romantic relationships that "she interpreted as clear overtures to a sexual relationship," the New York Times reports.
- In a statement following the Times' report, Cuomo called for a review into Bennett's allegations and denied that he made advances toward her.