This is precisely what Andrew Cuomo tried to avoid by controlling any investigation into sexual-harassment complaints. Having a friend of his crony at the head of an “independent” probe at least allowed for the possibility of a whitewash. Having been forced into authorizing Attorney General Letitia James to run the investigation, Cuomo no longer can control the process.
And it’s already expanding, the New York Times reported earlier this morning. Cuomo himself might get subpoenaed — which could set the stage for a constitutional crisis:
When a team of outside investigators begins to examine sexual harassment allegations lodged against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, its scope may be far broader than first anticipated.
The team, which will be hired by Letitia James, the New York State attorney general, will have far-reaching subpoena powers to request troves of documents and compel witnesses, including the governor, to testify under oath.
The independent inquiry may also scrutinize not just the sexual harassment accusations made by two former aides last week, but potential claims from other women as well.
In the end, which is likely to be months from now, the investigators will be required to produce a final report, the results of which could be politically devastating for Mr. Cuomo.
The subpoena might touch off that crisis much sooner. Given the testimony given by two staffers and a third woman outside of his administration — complete with creepy photographic corroboration — it’s inevitable that James (or whatever special prosecutor she appoints) will have to depose Cuomo. She will likely make that a request first, but unless Cuomo has a hankering for walking into perjury traps, he’ll refuse to cooperate. That alone might touch off a political crisis that could fuel the impeachment fervor building in Albany.
If James follows up with a subpoena, however, Cuomo would almost certainly fight it for the same reason. No one targeted by an investigation who hires competent legal counsel would walk into that kind of trap. His attorneys would likely try to fight the subpoena on the same kind of constitutional grounds on which Donald Trump was prepared to fight Robert Mueller, if the special counsel had pulled the trigger on those subpoenas. And that fight would throw fresh gasoline on that impeachment fire, too.
Cuomo’s basically trapped at the moment, especially if more women come forward. The best he can hope to do is rely on his Fifth Amendment rights and hope that silence drives the scandal off of the front page long enough to tire out the public. That’s what happened in Virginia with both Gov. Ralph Northam’s blackface scandal and the more serious allegations of multiple sexual assaults by Lt. Gov Justin Fairfax. Media stamina seems to ebb when a (D) follows a politician’s name … a phenomenon that has also saved Cuomo, and arguably more than once.