Andrew Cuomo could be ordered to testify under oath in his sexual harassment inquiry after the New York Attorney General was handed full subpoena power.
Independently elected Letitia James will now pick an outside law firm to investigate allegations against the governor.
Those outside investigators could also compel other witnesses to speak and request documents, including emails and text messages.
Calls for Cuomo's resignation intensified Tuesday after six state lawmakers issued a statement saying he 'uses his power to belittle, bully and harass his employees and colleagues'. The socialist state legislators called for impeachment proceedings.
New York City Councilman Antonio Reynoso tweeted: 'The pattern of sexual harassment and predatory behavior by Governor Cuomo is unacceptable, and I believe the women coming forward. Governor Cuomo must resign.'Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
It all comes after two former aides accused Cuomo of making inappropriate remarks to them; one says he forcibly kissed her. A third woman then said Monday he touched her face and back and asked to kiss her after they met at a wedding.
Cuomo has maintained he had never inappropriately touched or propositioned anyone. He tried to play down the claims in a statement on Sunday, apologizing to the women but insisting they misinterpreted what he considers to be joking.
The harassment allegations come on the heels of accusations the governor covered up the true death COVID-19 death toll in nursing homes.
NY State Attorney General Letitia James said she would release the findings of the investigation once it was complete. She has been handed full subpoena power
Andrew Cuomo could be ordered to testify under oath in his sexual harassment inquiry
Anna Ruch told The New York Times late Monday that she removed the Democratic governor's hand from her back, but he said she seemed 'aggressive,' promptly put his hands on her face and asked if he could kiss her.
'I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed,' Ruch, now 33, told the Times, which published a photo of the encounter showing the governor's hands on her face. 'I turned my head away and didn't have words in that moment.'
The account from Ruch, who worked as a photographer at the White House during President Barack Obama's second term, made her the second woman to accuse Cuomo of touching her without permission.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
Former aide, Charlotte Bennett, had said Cuomo quizzed her about her sex life and asked whether she would be open to a relationship with an older man.
She said Cuomo told her he was lonely and looking for a girlfriend.
Former aide Lindsey Boylan said Cuomo made inappropriate comments about her appearance, kissed her without her consent at the end of a meeting and once suggested they play strip poker while aboard his state-owned jet.
Boylan, who is running for Manhattan borough president, first accused Cuomo in a tweet last December and elaborated on the allegations in a Medium post last week.
Reporting by The Associated Press
AG James received a letter Monday from Cuomo's office authorizing her to take charge of the probe after a weekend of wrangling over who should investigate.
The letter enables James, also a Democrat, to deputize an outside law firm to conduct an inquiry with full subpoena power. The findings will be disclosed in a public report, the letter said.
A timeline for the investigation is unclear. The independent law firm carrying out the report had not been named by James as of Tuesday.
Cuomo's office say they 'voluntarily cooperate fully' with the investigation into the sexual harassment allegations.
Lawyer Kevin Mintzer told The New York Times: 'Before they question the governor — an event of obvious significance — they will be well prepared with what the documents and other people have said.'
State Senator Michael Gianaris said: 'We'll wait for the report, but I do believe that something needs to be done ultimately and whether or not the governor can continue is an open question.'
State Senator Todd Kaminsky added: 'I think Letitia James is independent, but the way the structure is set up, it's hard to retain independence when you have to report to the governor and the governor is involved with the finances.
'It's especially perverse when it is the governor himself who is under the microscope.'
At first, Cuomo had wanted to run his own investigation into the allegations but James shot it down, insisting that his office refer it to her.
On Monday, his office completed the referral process and she is now legally able to appoint a third party to investigate it.
In a statement on Monday afternoon, she said: 'Today, the executive chamber transmitted a referral letter to our office, providing us the authority to move forward with an independent investigation into allegations of sexual harassment claims made against Governor Cuomo.
'This is not a responsibility we take lightly as allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously. As the letter states, at the close of the review, the findings will be disclosed in a public report.'
The letter authorizing James' investigation said that all state employees have been directed to cooperate fully with the review. Cuomo senior adviser Beth Garvey said she would facilitate interviews with witness and requests for documents from Cuomo's office.
Ross Garber, a lawyer who has represented former governors Mark Sanford of South Carolina and John Rowland of Connecticut, said Cuomo is 'essentially handing his reputation to an outsider and saying, 'Have at it. Go find whatever you want and publish a report to the public about whatever it is you've concluded that I've done or not done.'
Initially, Cuomo appeared wanting to retain a level of control over the investigation. His office said it was asking a former federal judge, Barbara Jones, to conduct the probe. Then, his office suggested that the attorney general and the state's top judge work together to appoint outside counsel.