Uh … say what? I’ve heard of doubling down, but usually that doesn’t involve tossing red meat to a rabid group of reporters while potentially facing serious legal consequences. No wonder that Andrew Cuomo’s aides are “scratching their heads,” as Politico reported late yesterday:
For the second time this year, Andrew Cuomo finds himself alone in an almost unthinkable political quagmire. And for the second time this year, Cuomo has given no signals that he will back down. Instead, he’s preparing to fight back.
But unlike in March, when multiple allegations of sexual harassment first emerged, it’s now hard to see any new escape route for the governor, who is under criminal investigation and is facing almost certain impeachment in the aftermath of state Attorney General Tish James’ investigation of his conduct.
The only one who seems to be unaware of the desperate state of affairs is the governor.
Aides close to the governor say he is pushing for a press conference to refute James’s report in further detail, though it’s unclear if and when that plan will come to fruition as they try to talk him down.
This is poor judgment on its face given the political tenor of the moment, in which Americans have reached a near consensus despite political affiliation. Nearly everyone wants Cuomo gone, and his previous attempts to head this off by spinning the allegations have clearly failed. His video response backfired on Tuesday, generating scorn and amusement as Cuomo attempted to defend himself with an argument that amounted to casting himself as an equal-opportunity harasser.
In the legal environment into which Cuomo is entering, this is nothing short of insane. Going point-by-point over the report in public, with reporters challenging him every step of the way, will accomplish only one thing: provide prosecutors with a clear record on which they can themselves impeach Cuomo later. Letitia James may have ruled out pushing criminal charges for Cuomo with some of the allegations in her report, but four different district attorneys have announced their intention to at least consider criminal prosecutions:
While James said that the state attorney’s probe would have no criminal referral, district attorneys in Manhattan, Albany, Westchester County and Nassau County have now requested the investigation’s materials to look into the accusations, which allegedly took place in those jurisdictions and could lead to criminal charges.
Albany District Attorney David Soares said Tuesday his office is reviewing the report’s findings to see whether criminal charges should be filed and encouraged more victims to come forward. He called the matter “developing” and said his office would be reviewing the documents.
On Wednesday, the Westchester County district attorney’s office also asked for the investigative materials to conduct a criminal investigation into Cuomo’s alleged conduct. …
The Westchester District Attorney intends to review the governor’s alleged interactions with the female state trooper at his Mount Kisco home, while the Albany district attorney plans to review Cuomo’s alleged interactions with female staff members in that county.
At this point, any competent attorney would advise his/her client to shut the hell up. Anything and everything Cuomo says can and will be used in a court of law if these charges get filed. The more Cuomo talks, the more likely it becomes that he will contradict positions that his attorneys might have otherwise staked out to keep him from getting convicted.
It would be bad enough for Cuomo to send out the video message with claims that might get easily contradicted later. It’s a whole other level of stupid to agree to what amounts to a live hostile deposition with dozens of interrogators poring over every detail of James’ report to trip up Cuomo.
Of course, a sitting politician facing impeachment and near-universal calls for resignation might argue that a public defense is necessary. With the risks involved however, that might be a better argument for resigning and keeping your mouth shut. Beats prison, or at the very least a criminal trial.
But even if Cuomo ends up avoiding any criminal charges in this case, launching combative defenses will necessarily require Cuomo to denigrate his accusers and other witnesses. The more he does that, the more pressure will fall on his Democratic colleagues in Albany to press forward with impeachment. Democrats have staked out the “believe all women” position for years, and there’s no indication they’re looking to give Cuomo a Bill Clinton-esque pass. They’re already under enough pressure to get started on impeachment, although they’re hoping Cuomo just goes away by the end of the weekend:
CBS News has learned that some New York lawmakers, including Democrats, are ready to start the process of impeaching Gov. Andrew Cuomo following a report by the state’s attorney general that he sexually harassed at least 11 women. pic.twitter.com/ZQYl7hPE6I
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) August 4, 2021
If Cuomo just lays low for a few weeks and then ignores the report after that, he has a decent chance to execute the Ralph Northam-Justin Fairfax strategy of letting the scandal wither in succeeding news cycles. If Cuomo keeps talking about it, he’ll write his own exit from Albany, and possibly into some convictions.