Andrew Cuomo: top aide resigns as New York governor faces harassment scandal

A state assembly committee will meet on Monday to discuss potential impeachment proceedings

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's senior aide has resigned after a report found he sexually harassed 11 women.

On Sunday, Melissa DeRosa, who was one of Mr Cuomo’s fiercest defenders and strategists, said serving the people of New York was “the greatest honour of my life".

But she said the past two years “have been emotionally and mentally trying".

She did not give a more specific reason for her resignation.

“I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have worked with such talented and committed colleagues on behalf of our state,” she said.

Her resignation comes as Mr Cuomo prepares for the fight of his political life, despite the threat of criminal investigations and widespread calls for his impeachment.

Dozens of Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have urged Mr Cuomo to step down or face an impeachment battle he probably cannot win.

About two thirds of New York State Assembly members have already said they favour an impeachment trial if he refuses to resign.

Nearly all 63 members of the State Senate have called for Mr Cuomo to step down or be removed.

An assembly committee will meet on Monday to discuss possible impeachment proceedings.

On the same day, CBS This Morning is scheduled to broadcast the first TV interview from an executive assistant to Mr Cuomo who accused him of groping her.

Brittany Commisso told CBS and the Times-Union newspaper that what Mr Cuomo did was a crime and that he “needs to be held accountable".

She has accused Mr Cuomo of last year reaching under her shirt and groping her when they were alone in a room at the Executive Mansion, the official residence of the governor.

On another occasion he rubbed her backside while they posed for a picture, she said.

She was the first woman to file a criminal complaint against Mr Cuomo.

“He broke the law,” she said in an excerpt of the interview.

Mr Cuomo, who has denied touching women inappropriately, has largely remained in the governor’s mansion since the release of a 168-page report by two independent lawyers selected by the state attorney general to investigate his behaviour.

His lawyers have questioned the credibility and motives of his accusers.

Ms DeRosa, who often defended Mr Cuomo when he faced public criticism, had been with the administration since 2013. She became secretary to the governor in 2017 and was probably the most recognisable member of the administration after Mr Cuomo.

She appeared by his side in most of his news briefings and often fielded policy questions from the media when the governor did not know enough details to answer.

Ms DeRosa was mentioned 187 times in the attorney general’s report, which described the administration’s efforts to discredit some of his accusers.

The report described Ms DeRosa as a central figure in the administration's retaliation against one of the women, Lindsey Boylan, after she became the first person to speak out publicly against Mr Cuomo.

The administration released internal memos showing that Ms Boylan was the subject of complaints about toxic workplace behaviour.

The investigators’ report also revealed tension between Ms DeRosa and Mr Cuomo. She told investigators she was so upset with the way Mr Cuomo handled a conversation with one of his accusers, former aide Charlotte Bennett, that she angrily got out of his car when it stopped at traffic lights.

“She told the governor, ‘I can’t believe that this happened. I can’t believe you put yourself in a situation where you would be having any version of this conversation,’” the report said.

Mr Cuomo's lawyers have promised what will probably be a drawn-out fight to stay in office, and few people believe he is willing to quit.

“My sense is from what I’m hearing is he’s still looking for ways to fight this and get his side of the story out,” New York State Democratic Committee chairman Jay Jacobs said.

“I just think that he’s going to, at some point, see that the political support is just not anywhere near enough to even make an attempt worthwhile.”

One of Mr Cuomo's lawyers, Rita Glavin, told CNN on Saturday that he had no plans to resign, calling the attorney general’s report shoddy, biased and “an ambush".

Updated: August 9th 2021, 7:15 AM
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