Go figure that Melissa DeRosa wants to take a powder now. It’s easy to push back against “Executive Assistant #1,” and to spread innuendo about faceless accusers. With Andrew Cuomo’s accusers now going to the police — and with Brittany Commisso going public — the heat will go up not just for resignations but for prosecutions.
“What he did to me was a crime,” Commisso told CBS News:
"The governor needs to be held accountable… What he did to me was a crime." pic.twitter.com/uPuZiuEKq9
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) August 9, 2021
CBS started airing clips of this interview yesterday to promote its appearance this morning. Is that what pushed DeRosa into resigning, as one panelist here claims? That seems a bit doubtful; the AG report is damning, and Commisso’s public testimony in this interview doesn’t add any specific new allegations. It does, however, make it more difficult to dismiss or minimize Commisso or her allegations.
Commisso took direct aim at Cuomo’s main defense too, saying his handsiness and groping were anything but cultural normalcy:
“I would never on my own get up and initiate a hug with the governor,” Ms. Commisso said in a joint interview with “CBS This Morning” and the Albany Times Union.
Ms. Commisso also criticized the governor for saying in his defense that he commonly hugs, kisses and touches people in an effort to put them at ease. His actions toward her, she said, made her uncomfortable.
“To me and the other women that he did this to, oh, it was not normal,” Ms. Commisso said. “It was not welcomed, and it was certainly not consensual.”
The alleged sexual assault took place in the governor’s mansion, which is why Commisso filed a criminal complaint in Albany. If true, there’s no question of misunderstanding or “cultural” considerations:
According to the report, one of Mr. Cuomo’s aides told Ms. Commisso to attend to the governor at his Executive Mansion office, where she said he pulled her into a close hug.
Ms. Commisso said in the interview that she was afraid a staffer might walk in and get the wrong idea and told Mr. Cuomo, “you’re going to get us in trouble.”
She said that Mr. Cuomo then slammed the door shut, and slipped his hand under her shirt and grabbed her breast.
The governor, she said, “shut the door so hard to the point where I thought for sure, someone downstairs must think if they heard that, ‘what is going on?’” …
In his defense, Mr. Cuomo told investigators that Ms. Commisso was the “initiator” of any hugs between them, the report said. He said that he went along with the hugs because he did not “want to make anyone feel awkward about anything.”
Even if one accepts Commisso’s testimony — and it does seem both compelling and consonant with Cuomo’s narcissism — this will be a difficult case to prosecute. It’s going to come down to her word against Cuomo’s on the specific assault, and the documentary evidence is mixed. Attorney General Letitia James clearly believes that the assault took place, but prosecutors will explain patiently that there’s a very large difference between what you believe and what you can prove. That’s not to say a jury might not return a guilty verdict, but Cuomo’s attorneys will argue reasonable doubt all day long.
In the context of impeachment, however, Commisso may have more luck. Impeachment and removal are political processes, not criminal, and the legislature can extend as much or as little benefit of doubt to Cuomo as they see fit. Unlike with most criminal charges, they can add up uncharged behavior as part of their deliberations to give weight to allegations such as Commisso’s.
Cuomo had better start calculating that up and decide whether he wants public hearings that will engender all sorts of sympathies for his accusers while destroying what little is left of his reputation. Melissa DeRosa made that calculation, clearly.