Perhaps Andrew Cuomo should title his next book How To Lose Friends and Repel People. In the midst of what should be an existential crisis to his political career, the Love Gov needs all the friends he can get. Instead, CNN reported this afternoon, Cuomo has begun threatening his Democratic allies to keep them from turning on him in the nursing-home scandal engulfing his administration:
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been pleading with lawmakers for support and even threatening political retribution against Democrats who have criticized him in an aggressive effort to contain political fallout from revelations that his administration had concealed the full extent of nursing home-related deaths during the Covid pandemic.
Describing an alleged exchange with the governor that has not been previously reported, Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim told CNN that he received a call on his cell phone from the governor last week as he was bathing his children at home.
“Gov. Cuomo called me directly on Thursday to threaten my career if I did not cover up for Melissa [DeRosa] and what she said. He tried to pressure me to issue a statement, and it was a very traumatizing experience,” Kim said. Cuomo proceeded to tell the assemblyman that “we’re in this business together and we don’t cross certain lines and he said I hadn’t seen his wrath and that he can destroy me,” according to Kim. …
“No man has ever spoken to me like that in my entire life,” Kim said of his phone call with Cuomo. “At some point he tried to humiliate me, asking: ‘Are you a lawyer? I didn’t think so. You’re not a lawyer.’ It almost felt like in retrospect he was trying to bait me and anger me and say something inappropriate. I’m glad I didn’t.”
What did Cuomo hope to gain by threatening a fellow Democrat? Whatever it was, it’s not paying off; it’s now all over the media, including the New York Post (natch), The Hill, HuffPost, and the New York Times. The latter noted that the “war” over Cuomo’s scandal has “intensified,” which is relatively mild in these circumstances. Cuomo apparently wasn’t bluffing with his threat to “destroy” Kim:
In a remarkable retort, the governor used his press briefing to lob allegations of impropriety at the assemblyman, saying that he and his administration have had a “long and hostile relationship” with Mr. Kim, now in his fifth term.
In particular, Mr. Cuomo was angered and combative about a letter published by The New York Post that was signed by several Assembly members, including Mr. Kim. The letter, citing the governor’s delays in releasing a complete tally of deaths of nursing home residents, including those that happened after a resident was transferred to a hospital, accused Mr. Cuomo of attempting to circumvent a federal probe and “intentional obstruction of justice.”
In lengthy remarks, Mr. Cuomo also accused the assemblyman of a “continuing racket” soliciting donations from nail salon owners, who were upset about a 2015 nail-salon reform law that he helped craft.
“I believe it was unethical if not illegal,” Mr. Cuomo said, suggesting that Mr. Kim was engaging in “pay to play.”
Cuomo apparently tried to harangue Kim all day long on Saturday. The assemblyman finally decided to direct Cuomo’s attempts to make contact through legal counsel:
Mr. Kim said the governor called him four more times on Saturday, but Mr. Kim did not pick up because he was stressed by the situation and felt uncomfortable. He has since retained legal counsel and told the governor’s office that any future communications should involve his lawyer.
That’s quite a request coming from a legislator to a governor. It’s even weirder when they’re both from the same party.
Kim’s not backing down, either:
“The governor can personally attack me all he wants in an effort to distract us from his incompetent management,” Mr. Kim said in a statement. “But these facts are not going away because they are the facts and are unacceptable.”
At some point, New York Democrats will have to ask themselves why they should bother circling the wagons around Cuomo. Do they want to enable their own bully, or would it just be easier at this point to get rid of him through the impeachment Republicans have been demanding? After Cuomo’s attack on Kim in today’s presser, the answer should obviously be the latter … a conclusion toward which Cuomo seems insistent on driving his erstwhile allies in Albany.
Update: In fact, Kim has decided that the best defense is a good offense. He just released a statement calling Cuomo’s attack a “smear … to distract us from his fatally incompetent management”:
Facts matter. pic.twitter.com/HNqs6bXpAr
— Ron T. Kim (@rontkim) February 17, 2021