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At This Hour
Senate Passes $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Bill; Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) Speaks amid Growing Calls to Resign. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired August 10, 2021 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RITA GLAVIN, ATTORNEY FOR GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: There were pictures from this event.
Those pictures haven't been provided to me and they were not part of the attorney general's report.
But this particular instance to say that the governor would try to grope somebody working a rope line with cameras around, he certainly would never have intended to do that. And I don't mean to take away from how this woman felt, but we do need to think about qualitatively what each of the women are saying and whether these are the types of things that are impeachable offenses.
There is another allegation and it was by analysts, and it is on the report, it starts at page 82. And she talks about being at a party and that the governor sought her out. He kissed her and then put his arm around her and took this photo. That is the photo.
In that photo, it was included in the report as evidence of some type of sexual harassment because Ms. Liss then later talks about how she was uncomfortable and she thought about this photo later on, that the governor had put his arm around her and then she talked about her experience working with him.
And the governor has said, yes, he has called people darling and sweetheart. He has had to change with the times. Yes, he hugs and he kisses his staffers. He has had to change with the times and, as he said on August 3rd, after the attorney general's report, that he slips and he does. But this does not rise to the level of sexual harassment or groping or fondling, as has been portrayed in the press during the feeding frenzy of the last eight days.
There is then Alyssa McGrath. And this photo was included as part of the attorney general's report. It is a photo of the governor at a holiday party and Ms. McGrath is wearing the black and Brittany Commisso is on the other side. And how the report portrayed this photograph is that the governor put his hands around the rib cage just below their breasts, as though there was something wrong with this photo. And I just simply ask everybody to look at this. Is this something that you think is evidence of improper behavior by the governor? Yes, he joked with Ms. Commisso and Ms. McGrath, yes, he would hug them, as he does many of his staffers, and, yes, he would give them a kiss.
The governor has said over and over, he did not grope, he did not fondle, he understood his relationship with them to actually be what's reflected in the photo, that they liked him very much. And he did not have a sense that either of them was uncomfortable
There has also been made much about the selfie picture with Ms. Commisso. I was asked about it yesterday on CNN by Erica Hill. What Ms. Commisso alleged is that on December 31st of 2019, New Year's eve, she was at the mansion and she claims that the governor wanted to take a selfie.
What the governor told the attorney general's office is that, no, he actually remembers this and he said, Ms. Commisso asked me if she could take a selfie with me. And what Ms. Commisso is now saying is that when she took the selfie that the governor put his hand on her butt and rubbed it for at least five seconds. That's what she testified to. And that she was so nervous that it became blurry, the pictures, and she had to delete them. And so they moved and sat on a couch and then took this selfie instead.
I'm not going to say any more than that. For me, as a lawyer, as a former prosecutor and a former defense lawyer, I often use pictures as exhibits at trial.
The governor did not violate Brittany Commisso, he did not rub her rear end before this photo. She asked for a selfie with him. I think that this picture demonstrates a comfort level and someone who wanted a selfie with the governor and she sent the selfie to her friend and there is a footnote, her friend, her very good friend, Alyssa McGrath, who actually said, I'm so jealous of the picture.
Then we go to this photograph. And this is also included among one of the 11. This was at a wedding. The governor officiated the wedding of one of his staffers. And at the wedding, he greeted this young woman, Anna Ruch, and he did put his arms around her -- her hands around her face.
He asked her if he could get her a kiss. That is something that he does. And she clearly was not comfortable with that. He understands that. He particularly understands it when he saw this photo on the front page of the New York Times. This does not rise to the level of sexual harassment that we impeach a sitting governor.
Want to talk about Kaitlin. She met the governor at a reception that was sponsored or hosted by a lobbying firm. She was recommended, he was told she was a superstar, he met her at the reception, and in front of dozens of people, he joked with her, he did a dance pose. He meant no disrespect. He was thinking, you can say whether it is right, whether it is wrong, that this was fun and that he was trying to be playful. And as we now know, it doesn't always work out that way. And the governor knows that and appreciates that.
And during the time that she worked for him, he did banter with her. He did ask her about her life. That is something that he routinely does with his staff members. What is going on? Are you married? Do you have kids? Are you dating anybody? That is something Senator Schumer asks his staff. It's normal when you're working closely with people in political environments that are high pressure to learn about their lives. He did not mean to make her feel uncomfortable.
He does the same thing with the men that work with him. He hugs them. He kisses them. And a number of them testified to that. But the investigators didn't include any of that in the report. And he asked the men about their personal lives, didn't include any of that in the report.
What happened was that from day one, it became building a case against Governor Andrew Cuomo. They started with a presumption that he had done some terrible things and it went from there. It didn't become scrutinizing each one of the allegations, talking to everybody about what the environment was in chamber. And the governor has said and has no doubt that working for him is tough.
I think people will say that going back to his time at HUD. In political environments, dealing with serious issues, you want to get the best out of people. Tempers can flare. There are high demands on getting it right. But what happened here was this investigation took every possible negative thing that could be said about the governor and they put it in. And they disregarded the positive, the things that would balance it and the things that would undermine what some people were saying about the governor, and that is not right.
The two investigators that were charged with this report certainly, and it comes through when you read it, they brought their own biases and a predisposition to this investigation and in the manner in which the report was written.
Mr. Kim is a longtime former federal prosecutor in the Southern District, my old office. Mr. Kim had pursued and supervised criminal investigations against the governor for years at that office. And he actually personally interviewed him, personally interviewed Governor Cuomo in one of the criminal investigations. Of course, he brought to the table certain views about the governor, feelings he had about how the chamber operated. How could he not?
And with respect to Ms. Clark, as an attorney, her practice is focused on bringing sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits on behalf of employees. Of course, that colored how she viewed what complainants told her versus what other people told her, she couldn't not. That was the lens they brought to the case and those backgrounds certainly influenced how they went about the investigation and drafted this report.
But what we do know is that report got facts wrong, it omitted favorable evidence that didn't support the narrative. There were 179 witness interviews and they only transcribed where we get the actual Q&A is 41. So what did the other 138 say because there are not 179 people mentioned in that report?
So here is where we are. Because of what has happened, since August 3rd, with the press conference and a report, that there is no question in my mind was designed and meant to devastate Governor Cuomo and his chamber. And for the last eight days, it has been a pile-on with people judging facts when they didn't have all of the facts.
And as we sit here today, the investigators have not provided me the lawyer for the governor who is being asked to give a submission to the assembly a single transcript to allow him to respond. They haven't even given him his own. They have not responded to my letter of last week asking to get access to the evidence and I'm willing to do it under an agreement that protects confidentiality. This is commonly done in civil matters and in criminal matters.
The Assembly Judiciary Committee and the attorney general's office have not agreed to our request for access to the evidence. And we're being asked to make a submission on behalf of the governor of the state of New York by Friday addressing the allegations. How are we going to be able to do that in a fair and meaningful way? This hasn't been and it is not going to be a fair process. And, in fact, the governor has been given no process.
I think that women should be believed and they should be treated fairly. I also believe that men should be believed and treated fairly. All people should be given that. And everybody should have a chance to respond and everybody should be scrutinized with what they say by facts, context and evidence. That hasn't happened here.
Our country has a rule of law. I believe in the rule of law, not mob mentality and not media mentality. The governor deserves to be treated fairly and that did not happen here.
Thank you for listening and thank you for your time.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: All right, everybody, we've been listening to Andrew Cuomo's attorney, Rita Glavin, going into a long list responding to the accusations, the allegations in the attorney general's report.
Let me bring in Polo Sandoval right now. He's in Albany, who has been covering this step by step.
Polo, I want to first get your reaction to what we heard from Rita Glavin as we are now waiting to hear from Andrew Cuomo for the time since live since the attorney general's report came out. It sounds like she went into a lot of similar territory that she's tread in the past.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, if you play back some of her remarks and some of her comments, going back as late as late last week, you'll see that they closely resemble what we just heard right now. The difference here is that she certainly took the extra step in going specifically after many of those points that the attorney general was trying to make when that report was released a week ago today ago.
But at the same time, to your earlier point, it did keep with many of that same -- much of that same theme that we've heard from Rita Glavin just the last few days, calling that report something that was consistent, that it contained errors, that it omitted evidence, calling it unbalanced, calling it unfair, and really getting to that point that she made late last week.
In fact, some of the words that she ended, one of her previous press conference, was saying this does not -- this kind of behavior that she has seen, that she has read about, that it does not rise to the level of sexual harassment that would actually lead to the impeachment of governor.
And then finally, just a quick note, I think what we also saw was perhaps there could be a preview of some of what the governor's defense could be when and if he may potentially have to face some charges regarding those allegations that had been brought forward by Brittany Commisso, that criminal complaint that she filed here in Albany County. What he heard today from the governor's attorney is that she was essentially calling her version of events or at least that account, that it was inconsistent.
And so, again, I think we did hear much of what we heard before, but now, the big question, what will we hear from Governor Cuomo, as we expect to will hear from him potentially any moment now as he announced that he would be making announcement as pressure continues to grow for him to step down, not just here at the state capitol, among lawmakers that have suggested and hinted that they would vote to impeach when that time comes but also, according to multiple sources from our colleagues, some of the pressure even coming from some of those closest to him to step down.
BOLDUAN: Let's jump into that a little bit more. Shimon Prokupecz is outside of the governor's office here in New York City.
Shimon, any word? The announcement said the governor is going to address the people of New York. Any word on what we're about to hear?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We have no idea what he's going to say. You know, I've been talking to people who say that the governor wants to defend himself, right, like he wants to launch some kind of defense before he reaches any kind of conclusion about whether he should resign.
Certainly, today, what we're seeing from his attorney is this really forceful defense of the governor. It almost reminded me like I was sitting in a courtroom listening to a closing argument from a defense attorney where she went line by line and in some cases through this report giving information, showing how some of it is in consistent with some of what they've heard, claiming how unfair the process has been for the governor, kind of reminds you of what you would see in a courtroom, right? So we'll see.
The governor is expected to speak soon. We have no idea what he's going to say. He left Albany this morning, flew on the New York State Police helicopter, arrived at the New York office here behind me around 10:00 A.M. There have been rumors all morning that he was going to speak. First, we were told it was just going to be his attorney and then, obviously, the governor's office making this announcement that he's going to address the New Yorkers at around 11:45. So we're waiting for that.
But I think what we're seeing here certainly from the governor's attorney is this kind of assault on the attorney general's case, the fact that they argue she did not present all of the information to the public.
One of the things that I found very interesting was that, you know, well, the governor never really had a chance to defend himself, he never really had an opportunity to say anything, but, you know, we should remind viewers that the attorney general, in her announcement, she took questions. The media was allowed in. I was there. We were allow today ask questions.
Shortly after that, the governor releases a recorded statement. We have not been able to question him about any of the findings in the report. Certainly, we have been able to question his lawyer. She's been on the air. She spent an hour with CNN over the weekend.
She did an interview last night. She's done other media interviews. They have not allowed reporters into the building. We are not allowed upstairs to the governor's office. We have previously been allowed to the governor's office. And to question previously, we have. I was here several times during the pandemic where we were able to question him. That is not happening here today.
So, of course, the big mystery is what will the governor say.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. All right, so we're standing by for that. Shimon is outside. We will get to that as soon as the governor does begin speaking any moment now.
Let me bring in Nancy Erika Smith. She is a private attorney who has represented high-profile clients, like Gretchen Carlson against Fox News in high-profile sexual harassment cases.
I'm curious your reaction to what we heard from Rita Glavin attacking the attorney general but also attacking the accusers.
NANCY ERIKA SMITH, : I'm infuriated. It's really hard to sit here five years after Roger Ailes, many years after Cosby, after O'Reilly, to hear this kind of gaslighting and re-victimization, not only of the governor's victims, but this is a tutorial to harassers everywhere, how to attack the victims of harassment.
For one, she said that the governor hasn't had a chance to respond, completely false. The governor testified for 11 hours. What he said is detailed in the report and some of it is blatantly not true. Maybe if Ms. Glavin and the governor had taken the mandated sexual harassment training that his staff falsely certified he did take, they would know that a 63-year-old governor of the state of New York should not be hugging and kissing his young assistants. He shouldn't be touching their butts. He shouldn't be asking them about their sex lives.
His lawyer just cherry-picked a few of the allegations rather than putting them in the context all of the allegations. It is not appropriate to ask your staff, why don't you show more leg, why don't you wear dresses. It's not appropriate to comment on a doctor's body on T.V. when she's putting a swab up your nose to test you for COVID. It's not appropriate to constantly be making sexual innuendos. And they're cherry-picking.
For instance, Ms. Commisso said in the report she didn't know what day he did this. Something else, harassers don't grope women's breasts and butts where there are witnesses to see it, maybe in a picture. And this has actually happened in many sexual harassment cases where during pictures a man gropes a woman's butt. But Ms. Commisso specifically said it was his private office, away from common areas, when he slammed the door shut and groped her breast.
So the fact that there's not a witness is not surprising. That kind of harassment rarely takes place in the public.
BOLDUAN: Hold on one second, if you can, thank you. And Nancy Erika Smith is going to stick with me. We have more breaking news coming into CNN as we speak. We're standing by to hear from Governor Cuomo but we also have just learned that the Senate has just passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Let's go over to CNN's Manu Raju, who has been watching all of this for us on Capitol Hill. Manu, fill us in.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: 69-30, that is the vote count in the Senate right now, a bipartisan majority giving approval to this $1.2 trillion infrastructure package coming after months of arduous negotiations between the White House, Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans.
This just was approved even with the support of some top Senate Republicans, including Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who voted for this package. Some of the other members of his leadership team voted against this, including Senator John Thune, the number two Republican, Senator John Cornyn and Senator Barrasso, all members of his leadership team.
But 19 Republicans overall joined with 50 Democrats to move this measure through this chamber after this has been on the floor for several days. The number of amendments that have gone through and this --
BOLDUAN: Manu, (INAUDIBLE), we have to get to Governor Andrew Cuomo. Here we go.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I'd like to address several issues today. First, I have only started by telling New Yorkers the facts before my opinion. So let's start New York tough with the truth. The attorney general did a report on complaints made against me by certain women for my conduct. The report said I sexually harassed 11 women. That was the headline people heard and saw and reacted to. The reaction was outrage. It should have been.
However, it was also false. My lawyers, as you just heard from Rita Glavin, have reviewed the report over the past several days and have already raised serious issues and flaws that should concern all New Yorkers. Because when there is a bias or a lack of fairness in the justice system, it is a concern for everyone, not just those immediately affected. The most serious allegations made against me had no credible factual basis in the report. And there is a difference between alleged improper conduct and concluding sexual harassment.
Now, don't get me wrong, this is not to say that there are not 11 women I truly offended. There are. And for that, I deeply, deeply apologize. I thought a hug and putting my arm around a staff person while taking a picture was friendly, but she found it to be too forward. I kissed a woman on the cheek at a wedding and thought I was being nice, but she felt that it was too aggressive. I have slipped and called people, honey, sweetheart and darling. I meant it to be endearing. But women found it dated and offensive.
I said on national T.V. to a doctor wearing PPE and giving me a COVID nasal swab, you make that gown look good. I was joking. Obviously, otherwise, I wouldn't have said it on national T.V. But she found it disrespectful.
I take full responsibility for my actions. I have been too familiar with people. My sense of humor can be insensitive and off-putting. I do hug and kiss people casually, women and men. I have done it all my life. It's who I have been since I can remember.
In my mind, I have never crossed the line with anyone but I didn't realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn. There are generational and cultural shifts that I just didn't fully appreciate, and I should have, no excuses. The report did bring to light a matter I was not aware of and that I would like to address.
A female trooper relayed a concern that she found disturbing, and so do I. Please let me provide some context. The governor's trooper detail had about 65 troopers on it, nut of the 65, only six women and nine black troopers. I'm very proud of the diversity of my administration. It's more diverse than any administration in history. And I'm very proud of the fact that I have more women in senior positions than any governor before me.
The lack of diversity on the state police detail was an ongoing disappointment for me. In many ways, the governor's detail is the face of state government that people see. When I attend an event, people see the detail that's with me.
I was continuously trying to recruit more to diversify. On one occasion, I met two female troopers who were on duty at an event. Both seemed competent and impressive. And I asked the state police to see if they were interested in joining. I often meet people, men and women, and if they show promise, I refer them to be interviewed.
The state police handled the interviewing and the hiring. And one of the two troopers eventually joined the detail. I got to know her over time, and she's a great professional. And I would sometimes banter with her when we were in the car. We spent a lot of time driving around the state.
This female trooper was getting married. And I made some jokes about the negative consequences of married life. I meant it to be humorous. She was offended and she was right. The trooper also said that in an elevator I touched her back, and when I was walking past her in the doorway, I touched her stomach. Now, I don't recall doing it. But if she said I did it, I believe her.
At public events, troopers will often hold doors open or guard the doorways. When I walk past them, I often will give them a grip of the arm, a pat on the face, a touch on the stomach, a slap on the back. It's my way of saying, I see you, I appreciate you and I thank you.