Politics

Cuomo attorney denies impact of COVID-19 nursing home deaths on impeachment talks

Rita Glavin hasn’t directly addressed the major scandals Cuomo faced aside from sexual harassment allegations.

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s attorney, Rita Glavin, once again held a briefing with reporters Thursday to insist on his innocence on claims of sexual harrassment.

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s attorney, Rita Glavin, once again held a briefing with reporters Thursday to insist on his innocence on claims of sexual harrassment. Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s attorney, Rita Glavin, once again held a briefing with reporters Thursday to insist on his innocence on claims of sexual harassment and denounce the report from the state Attorney General’s Office detailing Cuomo’s alleged misconduct. Glavin once again laid out her case against the women who accused Cuomo, repeating the same evidence she has offered for weeks to question their credibility and slamming Attorney General Letitia James as politically driven. Cuomo continues to remain out of the public eye.

But when asked about her radio silence on the many other scandals Cuomo faced when he left office, including misuse of government resources to write a memoir and hiding the true number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, Glavin sidestepped those topics, saying those controversies were not as consequential to the disgraced governor’s downfall, despite the fact that the Assembly’s impeachment investigation concluded both were serious offenses. “I do not believe the governor would have been impeached on any of those other issues,” Glavin said. “He would not have stepped down on any of those other issues. 

The strategy is clear: Hammer hard on sexual harassment, and let the other scandals fade into the background on their own. She referred to everything else in the Assembly report as “just add ons” when the questions surrounding Cuomo’s handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes and the accuracy of the death count he publicly presented began well before the first allegation of sexual harassment in December of 2020. “Sexual harassment drove this train, not those other issues,” Glavin asserted. “That was the issue that had the Assembly members saying he should resign or they were going to impeach him, not the other issues.”

While sexual harassment undoubtedly dominated the conversation as more women came forward with stories, public outrage had already escalated over the nursing homes scandal. Assembly Member Ron Kim called for the then-governor’s impeachment in February 2021 over the COVID-19 deaths, before Charlotte Bennett came forward as the second woman to accuse Cuomo of misconduct. At the time, Kim did not directly endorse removing Cuomo from office, but he strongly advocated for an Assembly-led investigation and a Senate-led trial over the issue. This came a month after James released a report concluding that the state significantly undercounted the number of nursing home residents who died of COVID-19. 

While the two scandals came to a head at roughly the same time and had many lawmakers calling for impeachment and resignation on multiple fronts, the questions around nursing home deaths had been growing louder for months as multiple agencies launched investigations into both the role that a controversial mandate had in the fatalities and how the state reported the numbers. Two weeks before Bennett came forward, a leaked recording had Cuomo’s second-in-command admitting to lawmakers the administration purposefully withheld the true numbers out of fear that they would reflect poorly on the state in the eyes of the federal government.

Glavin correctly pointed out that the Assembly hadn’t wrapped up its investigation before the attorney general’s report, which solely focused on sexual misconduct, came out and a tsunami of new officials began to demand Cuomo’s ouster. But the Assembly report’s purview was initially two-fold – sexual harassment and the nursing homes coverup. It ultimately expanded to include more topics. Lawmakers were still conducting their investigation into both matters, and eventually concluded the governor indeed engaged in misconduct.

“The sexual harassment drove all of this,” Glavin repeated. She offered no new evidence to contradict the findings of the Assembly report on nursing homes or that would suggest that Cuomo could have successfully fought articles of impeachment brought on those grounds. Glavin instead blamed what she considered the misleading and prejudicial attorney general’s report once again for Cuomo’s resignation, asserting that had people asked the right questions at the time, the ex governor would still be at the Executive Mansion despite all his other problems.

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