Er … which Cuomo? Just kidding — Chris Cuomo seems to be doing pretty well these days, although still unrelated to a return to public life. The Wall Street Journal reported late yesterday that older brother and vaudeville partner Andrew has begun planning his comeback just six months after resigning in disgrace.
His main target will be Letitia James and the investigation that drove him from office, but …
Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his aides are intensifying an effort to revive his public standing, including discussing how to make his first public appearance since resigning in August, according to people close to him.
Mr. Cuomo and his remaining aides have been calling former allies and political operatives to complain about New York Attorney General Letitia James, who oversaw an investigation that concluded Mr. Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, including current and former state employees. The former Democratic governor has denied touching anybody inappropriately and said the investigation was politically motivated.
The former governor’s lawyer, Rita Glavin, has held press briefings to release information about his accusers that she says undermines their credibility. Mr. Cuomo has been attempting to determine the right forum for a speech or appearance that would mark his return to public life, according to the people close to him.
“If you were in his position, you wouldn’t let it go either. The truth is important to him,” Ms. Glavin said. She has asked Ms. James’s office to amend the report to include information she said is favorable to the governor’s defense. Ms. Glavin said Mr. Cuomo was considering his available legal options.
That strategy got a boost last month when prosecutors declined to pursue criminal charges over multiple allegations of harassment that amounted to sexual assault. Each time, the prosecutors emphasized that they believed the women who came forward, but that they couldn’t prove the charges in court. That opening allows Cuomo to attack the sexual-harassment case in toto, although these prosecutorial decisions hardly amounted to a legal vindication. Or even a political vindication, for that matter, although Cuomo certainly wants to make it into both.
Attacking Letitia James doesn’t work either, for the same reasons plus another: James never did profit politically from her investigation. At the time, James had expressed interest in running for governor, which really did open up some questions about conflicts of interest. In the end, though, James demurred in favor of Kathy Hochul and decided to run for AG again instead.
The comeback effort also ignores the fact that Cuomo faced more than one scandal in his last term, and that the sexual harassment allegations weren’t the worst of them. Cuomo’s pandemic orders forced nursing homes to readmit infected patients and allow infected staffers to return to work, a policy that created 12,000 excess deaths, according to Hochul. Cuomo then covered that up, hiding the true death stats from both the federal government and state legislature, while at the same time scoring a $5 million book advance from Crown to brag about his pandemic leadership. That also turned into a scandal of its own when it became clear that Cuomo had used taxpayer-funded resources — specifically, the gubernatorial staff — to put the book together. It also provided a huge financial motive for his cover-up of the nursing-home deaths.
And let’s not forget Cuomo’s misappropriation of state health-care resources as favors to friends and family. That one includes his brother Chris, a payola scandal for CNN as well as a corruption problem for the state of New York. Did we miss any more of Andrew’s corruptocracy? It’s tough to keep up, frankly.
At the time of Cuomo the Elder’s resignation, critics tried to put the best face on the fact that he quit before he could face justice on the other scandals. Some noted that it was akin to getting Al Capone on tax evasion, but that may miss the mark. Capone went to prison and the tax-evasion charges stuck. Pushing Cuomo out of office on these difficult-to-sustain allegations allowed Cuomo to evade accountability for all his other sins, and now it might allow him to dodge accountability again.
Or at least it might in his own mind, but how successful can this comeback be? He engaged in scorched-earth power politics in his own party during his entire career, which means fellow Democrats won’t be eager to put themselves under his thumb again. Republicans would love nothing better than to make Democrats the Cuomo Party and force every single one of them to defend Cuomo the Corruptocrat in every single election. Maybe Cuomo’s aiming for a more commercial comeback as a paid eminence grise, but given his nasty temperament and body-count track record, Cuomo might be better advised to count his book-advance cash and be happy in Oblivion. That’s precisely where he belongs, if not in prison.