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Cuomo said AG probe would clear him. Now his aides say it’s political.

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ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, facing a cascade of misconduct claims earlier this year, dashed off a letter in March directing state Attorney General Tish James to investigate the scandals that were threatening to end his career.

When James is done with her work, Cuomo assured the public, everyone will see he had done nothing wrong. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general's report before forming an opinion,” he said at the time, refusing calls to resign.

Nearly five months later, James and the outside attorneys she hired to conduct the work appear close to wrapping up the inquiry after interviewing the governor last weekend. But Cuomo’s top aides no longer seem convinced James will deliver the findings their boss had promised and staked his future on.

In recent days and weeks, the governor’s communications team has sprinkled comments about any investigation-related news with assertions that James — the first Black woman to hold statewide office in New York — is using the probe to launch her own run for governor next year, when Cuomo may seek a fourth term.

“The continued leaks are more evidence of the transparent political motivation of the attorney general’s review,” Rich Azzopardi, Cuomo’s communication director and a senior adviser, said in a statement after news of the governor’s interview emerged in The New York Times.

By Wednesday, the jabs had become so blatant that fellow Democrats had started to cringe, and the head of a separate legislative impeachment investigation sent Cuomo a very public reprimand.

In a letter to the governor that he posted on Twitter, Assemblymember Charles Lavine (D-Nassau), the chair of the Judiciary Committee, warned Cuomo that language used to “demean” the attorney general and her investigation could have “severe repercussions” — and his committee might see it as an attempt to intimidate or silence witnesses relevant to both his investigation and the one run by James.

That’s an overreaction, a lawyer for the governor’s office — former U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman — fired back in a letter on Thursday. Punishing the governor for his aides’ behavior would be “fundamentally inconsistent with the core values of our nation’s founders,” wrote Fishman, who previously led the prosecution of allies to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie following the George Washington Bridge scandal.

Calling an investigation politically motivated is “par for the course” among political figures, agreed Jennifer Rodgers, a former federal prosecutor in New York and Columbia Law lecturer. The attacks aren’t very likely to cause witnesses with relevant information not to participate, as Lavine suggested, and it’s also not a smart play during multiple high stakes investigations, she said.

But that’s not the point.

“This is obviously geared not towards the people who are going to be making a decision about proceeding on impeachment but towards the public in the........

© Politico

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