New York State’s Coronavirus vaccine czar called County officials to determine their political loyalty to Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the face of multiple investigations.
Larry Schwartz — New York’s COVID-19 vaccine czar and a political “enforcer” loyal to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) — made calls to New York State County leaders to assess their political loyalty to the embattled governor, according to separate reports published on Sunday by the Washington Post and the New York Times. The call to one County executive leader was rattling, so much so that, last Friday, the leader filed a notice of an impending ethics complaint with the New York State Attorney General’s Office, according to the Post report. County leaders feared that withholding public support from Gov. Cuomo would result in the loss of access to Coronavirus vaccine distribution, according to a report broadcast by the NPR public radio network.
Gov. Cuomo’s office denied that Mr. Schwartz’s telephone calls could be viewed as a form of extortion. “Any suggestion that Larry acted in any way unethically or in any way other than in the best interest of the New Yorkers that he selflessly served is patently false,” said Beth Garvey, acting counsel to Gov. Cuomo, in relevant part in a statement.
Gov. Cuomo faces a Federal inquiry into reports of obstruction of justice in connection with the suppression of information about nursing home deaths during the Coronavirus pandemic ; an independent, outside investigation into allegations of sexual harassment made by multiple women ; and an impeachment investigation in the New York State Assembly over these allegations. His office has been reportedly making entreaties to shore up political support in the face of increasing calls for his resignation.
When Larry Schwartz, Cuomo's vaccine czar and longtime senior aide, called county officials to gauge their loyalty to an embattled Cuomo, he did not link support to getting vaccines. But one official was troubled enough to file ethics complaint w/state. https://t.co/Rfuu5YQKgu
— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) March 14, 2021
The outside, independent investigation is progressing, but there’s been no public check on allegations of extortion or witness intimidation.
The lawyer for one of the accusers, who has charged that Gov. Cuomo engaged in sexual harassment, announced on Monday that her client met with investigators for over four hours and submitted over 120 pages of records to document her allegations, according to a report published by the POLITICO news Web site. The attorney, Debra Katz, said the accuser, Charlotte Bennett, revealed that Gov. Cuomo suggested that the large size of his hands were to be seen as an indication of something to Ms. Bennett and to other members of his “staff,” according to the POLITICO report. Playground and locker room teasing between men have long featured the myth that the size of a man’s hands correlated to the size of his penis, and the misconception was the subject of a CNN report.
Ms. Bennett has accused Gov. Cuomo of maintaining a “sexually hostile work environment,” in addition to asking her inappropriate questions about her romantic life and whether Ms. Bennett “had ever been with an older man.” Gov. Cuomo is almost four decades her senior.
In the past, Gov. Cuomo has faced accusations of witness tampering or obstruction of justice when he has been the reported target of an investigation. In 2014, then U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara reportedly sent a warning letter to Gov. Cuomo, instructing him not to tamper with witnesses in the investigation into the premature closure of the Moreland Commission. Regarding the instant investigation over sexual harassment, Gov. Cuomo has faced accusations that he and his office engaged in retaliatory acts against one of his accusers, Lindsey Boylan, according to reports published by the New Yorker and the New York Times.
The two investigators named by Attorney General Letitia James (D-NY) to head the independent, outside investigation into the sexual harassment allegations have kept mum about the latest activities by Mr. Schwartz and the allegations of witness intimidation or witness tampering. For this report, the independent, outside investigators, Joon Kim and Anne Clark, did not answer a media request.
Separately, President Joseph Biden (D) speculated on Tuesday that Gov. Cuomo would “probably end up being prosecuted” if the outside, independent investigation confirmed the allegations by Gov. Cuomo’s accusers, according to an excerpt of an interview conducted by ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos.
- The outside independent investigation looking at allegations of sexual harassment against Gov. Cuomo has no political relief valve, will not end upon resignation [Progress New York]
- Cuomo monetised the control of data that underreported COVID-19 nursing home deaths, in addition to attempting to thwart a Justice Department investigation : reports [Progress New York]