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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Governor Cuomo Attorneys Speak After Staffer Files Criminal Complaint. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired August 06, 2021 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: All right. The governor's legal team is continuing to take on the accusations made in the A.G.'s report. More coverage continues on THE LEAD.
RITA GLAVIN, ATTORNEY FOR GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: Documentary evidence does not support what she said. And what is disturbing to me is that the two investigators did not show that evidence to you. They ignored it. Ask them why.
Let's go through the timeline of November 16. In her account, "The Albany Times Union," she says she was summoned there from the capital to the mansion to fix a phone issue. She arrived, she went to the governor's office, he came out from behind his desk, then he groped her, and there was the door slamming, and he said, I don't care when she said someone's going to see us. And then she walked out and left.
Well, that's not what happened. He was at the mansion that day for several hours, and she wasn't just working with the governor, she was working with other staffers. Emails that she sent while she was at the mansion reflect that she was joking while she was there, he was eating snacks, and she even offered to stay longer at the mansion when her work was done.
Here is the timeline that the investigators don't talk about. She arrived at the mansion at 11:59. Within five, six minutes after she's there, she is forwarded a speech, OK, from Stephanie Benton, who was also in the mansion that day. She was there to work on a speech, not to fix a phone. And over the next hour or two, the governor was on phone calls with other governors, and he was preparing for a 2:00 phone call with governors and the vice president of the United States about COVID. And he had a series of scheduled calls with governors in connection with that.
At 1:59 p.m., she sends an email to Ms. Kennedy who was at the capitol, another assistant, and said never mind, Harold fixed it. At 2:09 p.m. while the governor is participating in a 30-minute governor's call with the vice president, she emails the draft speech that she had been working on back to Ms. Benton. And then that speech was forwarded to senior staff.
At 2:16, Ms. Kennedy emails her and asks how it was going at the mansion. And her response at 2:18 p.m., pretty good right now actually. Carol just came through with some cheese and crackers so I'm happy now. Carol is a member of the mansion staff. And where carol serves cheese and crackers is not on the second floor of the governor's offices, it's on the first. And when she emails about getting the cheese and the crackers, Ms. Kennedy supplies back, you got to love the cheese.
At 2:37, executive assistant one then emails Ms. Benton again. And she says, hey, the gov just came in said he was good. Do you need me to do anything else for you before I head back to the cap? What that email reflects when it says the governor just came in, there is an office on the first floor of the mansion where the governor's assistants work when they are there. That email reflects that the governor came into that office to say he was good, didn't need anything else. And then she emails Stephanie Benton to say, is there anything else that you need me to do here before I head back?
The governor then was on a phone call with his chief of staff and executive assistant one left the mansion at 2:47.
This does not in any way, shape or form, reflect what executive one told "The Times Union". And, again, I ask why did this report ignore documentary evidence, and why did they not want to tell you? The report instead suggests that the governor falsely testified that there were people around. That he said to touch a woman's breast who I hardly knew in the mansion with ten staff around. And the report says there weren't ten staff in the vicinity that day.
Well, the report's wrong. Records reflect that senior staff members were in the mansion working with the governor that day while executive assistant one was there. Peter Ajemian (ph), Stephanie Benton, Melissa DeRosa, the house staff, as you know, Carol. Carol is usually there with one or two others.
There were actually staffers that came in and left to drop something off. Did the investigators ever ask those senior staffers about November 16th? Asked the attorney general, release the transcripts? Because I'm betting they didn't.
It would've taken five minutes for the attorney general's investigators to send a subpoena asking for all emails and records for November 16th. And they didn't do it. You got to ask yourselves why. And what this report was designed to do and to not do.
When executive assistant one claims the governor slammed his door, if you were to ask anybody who works in the mansion, because of the age of the mansion, a door being slammed shut echoes. The report doesn't say that anyone corroborated hearing a door slammed because the fact that the executive assistant one was in the mansion that day, that's not an often thing that happens during the workday that executive assistant one is in the mansion for several hours. Did the investigators even ask any of the people who were there that day, ask them?
I'm going to go to second example. Statements that undermined Lindsey Boylan's claims were ignored in this report. On December 5th, and this is where this all started with tweets from Lindsey Boylan. On December 5th, she tweeted, now, this is two weeks, you have to consider the timing of when these tweets started. She had announced about two weeks earlier that she was running to be the Manhattan borough president.
So she knew that her tweets at that time were all going to be within her campaign and the platform that she was going to run on. And what she said when she tried to quit three times from the governor's office before it stopped, she said, I'm a privileged person, I could opt out and eventually did.
And what she was clearly trying to tell the world is that she opted out because of a toxic work environment that she was being sexually harassed. Well, the evidence isn't hot, but that's why Ms. Boylan left. As has been, you know, reported. What happened is that on September 26th of 2018, the governor's counsel met with Ms. Boylan, and the reason for the meeting is that there had been a number of employee complaints about her.
The attorney general's report omits what those allegations were, what was said about Ms. Boylan, what the recommendation was from the empire state development agency. Why? Why didn't they put that in there? When Ms. Boylan was confronted with a number of complaints, she immediately and voluntarily tendered her resignation. She then sent an email throughout the chamber she was resigning.
Do you want to know what happened four days later? She called the governor's counsel and said she wanted her job back. The governor's office declined to give her her job back.
She then reached out to the governor to personally intervene. She emailed his assistant, asked to speak with him. He didn't return her call after consulting with a number of people.
Why didn't the investigators put this in their report? Particularly when two weeks after she started her campaign, she was leading the public to believe a false story that she left because of sexual harassment and a bad work environment when in fact she left after being confronted with a number of complaints and then really wanted her job back and they wouldn't give it back. The fact that this is not in the report goes to ms. Boylan's credibility, and it goes to the credibility of the investigators and their investigation and their fact-finding.
I want to make a last point, the third point. After Ms. Boylan began tweeting in December of 2020, there were phone conversations between Ms. Boylan's primary campaign consultant, a person by the name of Trip Yang and Letitia James' chief of staff Ibrahim Khan. Those conversations are about what Ms. Boylan was tweeting about and her intent with respect to the allegations she was going to be making against the governor, and what she potentially planned to do.
And Trip Yang is having conversations with Ibrahim Khan because they know each other. Letitia James' chief of staff worked with Trip Yang because he was a consultant to her 2018 attorney general campaign. The investigators were made aware of what those -- that those conversations happened.
Did the two investigators interview the attorney general's chief of staff about what Trip Yang had said that would have been something critical for them to do and about whether Trip Yang and people within the campaign found what Ms. Boylan was saying to be credible. One of her media campaign consultants very shortly after she began making these tweets, quit. Did they interview the media consultant about what her conversations were with Lindsey Boylan about these allegations? Ask them.
What Ms. Boylan was talking about at the time she first made these allegations could not be more relevant to whether they were credible. The attorney general's chief of staff should be interviewed, Trip Yang should be interviewed, the media consultant should be interviewed. And emails from the campaign around that time should be subpoenaed.
I want to go to my last point about the report. And my last point for now. There was a claim by Ms. Boylan, made for the first time on February 24th in a medium piece that she got on to the state airplane where the governor and other staffers were.
And what she said is that she was sitting across from the governor. And this is a pretty small claim. Next woman named Abbey Collins. And what she said was that at one point that the governor said something to the effect of let's play strip poker. Well, Ms. Collins, Dani Lever, John Maggiore, and Howard Zemsky, they were on all flights with both Ms. Boylan and the governor in October of 2017, and they stated that this conversation did not happen, OK?
What does the report say? The report says that after denying having heard the strip poker comment, Howard Zemsky, quote -- this is what the report says, received a disparaging message from Ms. Boylan that he found, quote, jarring, end quote, and threatening after getting the jarring and threatening communication from Ms. Boylan, Mr. Zemsky's recollection then suddenly changed.
Why did the report not share what the message was? What did Ms. Boylan threaten Mr. Zemsky with that would have caused him to change his story? Why is that not in there? Why does the report discredit all of the other witnesses who were there and then suddenly credit the one witness who had been threatened by Lindsey Boylan before his recollection changed?
Did the investigators ignore that message? Did the investigators look into whether Lindsey Boylan was making efforts to influence the testimony of other witnesses? Because the report mentions that she was reaching out to other people. Why is the message not been shared?
The governor has been asked by the Judiciary Committee of the assembly to get a response of any evidence or arguments that he has by August 13th? And we intend to do that. But what we have asked for and are entitled to is the evidence. We're entitled to get the transcripts, the underlying documents that support that report. Because what we know is that they have left material out. And I will share with you that I received a phone call a few months
ago from a lawyer. And this was a lawyer that I did not know, I didn't know was involved in the case, and represented someone who I didn't even know had been interviewed. But this lawyer got my telephone number through another lawyer because this lawyer believed that it was very important for me to get some information. And the information was that the manner of questioning alarmed this lawyer that I was being warned that minds were made up and that questions pushed back on evidence that was favorable to the governor, and particularly information this witness had to provide about credibility.
The governor deserves to be treated fairly, and he must be. That did not happen here. This was one-sided, and he was ambushed. There's a rule of law in this country. I believe in it. Give us the opportunity to have the evidence, and we're going to give our response.
PAUL FISHMAN, ATTORNEY FOR GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: I believe we're taking questions, but I don't know what the mechanics of that are going to be.
MODERATOR: If you'd like to ask a question, please use the "raise hand" function at the bottom of your window. We'll just take a brief moment to compile the Q&A roster.
First question comes from Marcia Cramer, WCBS TV. Marcia, you are unmated?
REPORTER: Yes. My question to you is this. Do you think that there was any problems in terms of the integrity of the prosecutors who were involved? Some of them including Mr. Kim had prior investigations of people in the Cuomo administration and even the governor himself. Do you think that that prejudiced him? Or was the governor not -- was the governor given a fair hearing when he was questioned by him?
FISHMAN: Let me answer the first part of that question. And then I'll let Ms. Glavin answer the second part of this question.
Look, I've known Mr. Kim for a pretty long time. And I'm loathed to criticize people I know who are very highly regarded members of the bar.
But you are correct that Mr. Kim was involved in his last position in the Southern District of New York attorney's office in two grand jury investigations that involved the Cuomo administration, and in one of those investigations he personally interviewed the governor.
I wasn't at those interviews. I was in my old job as the U.S. attorney in New Jersey at the time and so I don't know exactly what transpired in that interview. And then the governor has relayed that he complained about the assistant U.S. attorney and the attorney to the Southern District of the White House at some point. I obviously was not part of that conversation either. But the governor does have concerns, very serious concerns about
whether Mr. Kim was the independent investigator that the attorney general promised she would appoint in this matter. But Ms. Glavin may have additional thoughts.
GLAVIN: Marcia, I actually think the best way for you to think about this, about the appointment of Mr. Kim to investigate sexual harassment allegations against Governor Cuomo is for me to give you an analogy to Mr. Fishman.
As you all probably know, Paul Fishman was the U.S. attorney in New Jersey who had a longstanding investigation of Governor Christie in bridge-gate. What do you think would be the proprietary if now fast forward five, six years later Governor Christie was accused of sexual harassment allegations of appointing Paul Fishman to be the one to do that? Does that lend to you a feeling that it would be truly independent fact-finding?
The best I can tell you on this point is that Mr. Kim was part of an investigation of governor and people around him for a number of years, and then certainly with respect to the prosecution of Joe Percoco. And there's no question in my mind that he formed impressions about how the chamber was run. And you can look for yourself at some of the comments that Mr. Kim and Mr. Bharara, his boss, made about Governor Cuomo and how things were run in Albany during that time.
So you look at that. And then I can't, as the governor's counsel, I can't ignore how the investigation was conducted. I think that different lawyers may have done some things differently.
And I'll leave it at that.
MODERATOR: Your next question comes from Jimmy Vielkind of the "Wall Street Journal." Mr. Vielkind, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.
REPORTER: Hi. A woman identified as trooper number one alleges that the governor ran his finger down her spine and said, hey you. And in another instance, he touched her stomach from her belly button over to the portion of her hip where she carries her gun.
Do any of you have any response to those allegations? I haven't seen any in any of your written materials or statements thus far.
GLAVIN: I want to mention two things about that. The first is that the governor will address that allegation himself. And so I will let him speak for himself.
REPORTER: When will he do that?
GLAVIN: I can't give you a timeline, but I know he wants to do it soon. I know he'll (ph) do it soon.
But there is something I want to point out. The report suggested that the governor singled her out, you know, and wanted her on the detail because of some improper motive. That's the clear suggestion in the report.
And what the governor told the investigators in his testimony is that he had been complaining about the lack of diversity on his detail for some period of time. He has about 60 troopers that are on the detail. There's only a handful of women.
And for a governor who has hired and has senior women in all of his top jobs, this had bothered him for some period of time, and he voiced it. And as the governor relayed it to the investigators, he had met this trooper. He thought she was impressive in their meeting, and he said, I don't understand, like, why can't we hire somebody like her? Do you know her? And he was told she was excellent.
REPORTER: Ms. Glavin, can you -- can you explain what led the governor based on an interaction at an event to believe that she was impressive?
GLAVIN: He liked how she maintained eye contact. He liked that she was assertive with him in the conversation. And then he asked one of the troopers he knows about her, and they said, yeah, she's excellent.
And he's, like, I don't understand this, why do I not have women in my detail?
There's also a suggestion that the governor went and wanted to change whatever the qualifications were. The governor had said he did not do this, I don't know what happened, you know, within the detail, but -- and within the troopers and what their internal policies are. And actually the governor told the investigators he did not know.
But he certainly, if he meets someone, particularly in the trooper world, and he wants diversity and he has said that to them that he wants that. So I did want to make that point because he made that in his testimony. And it certainly was not reflected in how the investigators chose to report that.
MODERATOR: Your next question comes from Michael Gormley, News Day.
Mr. Gormley, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.
REPORTER: Yes. You've mentioned that the questioning and what they didn't include has been a problem. Is there anything -- how do you know if you don't have this record? Also, is there anything you can say to back that up, the concerns about the questioning and what they didn't include.
And then one last question. Have you investigated whether these civil charges would be a new standard for impeachment in New York? And if it meets the standard or creates a new standard?
GLAVIN: Paul, I think you can probably address your experience, having represented a number of chamber employees with how the interviews were conducted. FISHMAN: Yeah. The only thing I'll say in response to your question is
between my law firms, we probably represented 18 or 20 individuals who were interviewed by members of the attorney general's investigative team.
And what I would say is a number -- the one thing I'd say is a number of those individuals left those interviews feeling as if the questions were framed in a way to push them to particular conclusions about people about the work environment and so forth that some of the questioning was not sufficiently open-ended in a type of investigation that would be looking for whatever information people had to provide.
But I think the truth is not having seen any of the transcripts and given the attorney general's investigators' direction to everyone that they were not to disclose to anyone else what they had testified about, I think honestly I think that the best way for you to see that, the best way for us to see that is to get the transcripts and see how those interviews were conducted. I think they certainly were all transcribed, and I gather that most or all of them were also videotaped.
GLAVIN: Actually, I want to speak to that point, Paul. There were 179 interviews conducted. That's what is reflected in their report. But what they also noted that only 41 of them were done under oath. What I understand that to mean -- and, again, ask the attorney general investigators here, is that the vast majority of the interviews were not transcribed. That people came in and did what they call informal interviews where there is no court reporter taking down the questions and the answers, and all you have from those interviews would be the investigators taking notes and writing up a memo of what was said.
What I have been told is that a lot of interviews of current and former chamber employees were done informally so we don't have the Q&As that we do for the 41 under oath. And again I'm sure the investigators will correct me if I'm wrong. But that there was a number of interviews including the one where this lawyer called me that the two lead investigators didn't even attend, Mr. Kim and Ms. Clark. They had underlings do it.
And I think this begs the question of what they chose to put in the memos, which I assume they did and did not, and whether we're going to get an accurate recitation versus having done all of the interviews with a court reporter there and a Q&A. I am also aware --
REPORTER: They had attorneys, right? They had attorneys present? Were objections present?
GLAVIN: They had attorneys present, but you're not going to get a Q&A transcript. You're going to get people's notes, and those attorneys' notes, I can tell you that they will probably say that they were work product.
REPORTER: But there were no objections raised at the time on the record? GLAVIN: I don't know because we were not told every person that was
interviewed. We still don't know every person that was interviewed to date.
MODERATOR: Question comes from Sunny McGee (ph) of CNN.
Ms. McGee, your line is now open.
REPORTER: Hi. Just getting back to the state trooper again. First of all, is she still assigned to protect the governor?
REPORTER: And -- oh, she is. And what is being done to protect her and others who have spoken out with these claims against the governor, against potential retaliation?
And then my other question just about your sort of log of the day of the executive assistant. Is it possible that the executive assistant could've come on another day that just wasn't reflected in the log? What is the mechanism used to log people coming and going from the executive mansion?
GLAVIN: Let me hit the trooper question. I don't know currently now since the report was released. But what I can it tell you is up until a day or two before the report, the trooper was working. And I would also add that the governor has a view of this particular trooper, you know, that's positive in terms of her job in day to day.
With respect to what's being done about, you know, retaliation -- look, the whole world is watching right now. People are not going to be retaliated against by Governor Cuomo. But what we have to be able to do is examine evidence and be able to make a case for our client. Otherwise to the extent that the assembly wants to move forward, to the extent they want to move forward with impeachment, you now have an impossible standard for us because we are not given access to the evidence.
Now, I understand records have been provided to the assembly. We had asked them for that so that we can make an informed submission that adequately addresses the evidence and can point out areas where we believe there's been omissions or exculpatory evidence.
I do also want to make another point on this, is that there are points in the report that talk about other chamber employees that believed a complainant. I do know and have been told by some other attorneys that they provided information that undermined the credibility of at least one complainant and questioned the motives. And somehow none of that far made it in the report.
REPORTER: I'm sorry.
GLAVIN: And finally I left out one other point. Could you ask could it be another day in November? Because this assistant said it happened in November. We have looked at the records of visits to the mansion, and we did not find another day in November. We're not aware of another day in November other than the 16th that she was there.
REPORTER: I'm sorry, you're personal attorney for the governor. Are you saying to me right now that you do not know whether or not one of the women who has accused governor who is presumably still part of his protective detail, you don't know if she's still near him every day on a day-to-day basis?
Because I have reporting that she is no longer on his protected detail. And I just want to know, was she moved, was it her request, was it the governor's request?
GLAVIN: I actually don't know. What you're telling me right now, I didn't know, that's new news. And I actually can talk to my client about it. I do know that shortly before the report she was still on the detail. I haven't gotten any current information in the last several days, so I don't know.
MODERATOR: Next question comes from Luis Ferre of "The New York Times."
Mr. Ferre, your line is now open.
REPORTER: So I have two questions. One is that the report has a footnote that says that the executive assistant number one didn't remember the exact date that the incident happened but that it was around when she took a photograph on November 16th. I just wanted to ask what you made of that.
And, secondly, what happens after you submit your evidence to the assembly's judiciary committee? Is there some sort of process laid out before the assembly considers drafting articles of impeachment, in which the governor or the executive gets to testify before the committee or its investigators or anything along those lines?
GLAVIN: Yep. Let me take the first question. In that particular footnote of the report, what the investigator said is that they were able to pinpoint what day it was because the assistant had said that her task at the mansion was to photograph a document while she was there. And so they were able to locate the photograph, she was, and that photograph was dated November 16th, and the mansion of records reflect that that was the day she was there for three hours. And we have not seen evidence of another day in November that she was at the mansion.
Second, with respect to the assembly process, I certainly hope there is a process, because we did not get that process in this report. We didn't get any process in the report.
And so I think that the assembly judiciary committee, they have said that they would do their own review. And I do know that Mr. Heastie (ph) had said that they may not just take the report at face value. Well, they shouldn't because there are things that are omitted, and there are things that just we believe are wrong. And that's why this needs to have a fuller and fairer process that has not been provided to the governor.
FISHMAN: Thank you all very much. We'll take one more.
GLAVIN: One more.
MODERATOR: Next question comes from Jennifer Andrus of WNYT TV.
Ms. Andrus, your line is now open. You've got to unmute your microphone, Ms. Andrus.
REPORTER: Okay, that should be better. And clearly this is not Jennifer. My name is Dan Levy (ph). I am with News Channel 13.
And thank you for the opportunity here.
Over the last five months since the investigation began, many people were willing to give the governor the benefit of the doubt, but since the attorney general's report was released earlier this week, it seems that clearly much of that support has dried up, and many of the lawmakers who would serve as jurors, should there be a trial, have already released public statements critical of the governor's behavior.
So how do you overcome something like that? How concerned are you?
GLAVIN: I think it is always concerning when people announce where they're coming out before they have all the facts. You can't prejudge this. And I am guessing that members of the assembly and the Senate did not know some of the things that we've shared today. And I hope that we'd give them pause as jurors.
Look, my experience, I'm a trial lawyer. I've tried a lot of cases in front of juries. And the reason I love what I do and the process around it is because I love the rule of law, because you get to tell both sides. When a witness says that someone did something, I get to ask them questions and cross-examine them.
That has not happened here. And for the majority of the witnesses that were interviewed, they were not transcribed. The governor deserves to be treated fairly like anybody else in this country accused of something. He is 63 years old. He has spent 40 years in public life.
And for him to all of a sudden be accused of a sexual assault of an executive assistant that he really doesn't know doesn't pass muster. He needs to be treated fairly, and this would become, if you accept this report as is, without giving him the evidence, I tell you that is an irresponsible and a new standard for impeachment.
Thank you, everybody.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper. We've been listening to attorneys for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
and his office speaking after a staffer filed a criminal complaint against the governor with the Albany sheriff's office. The staffer is one of 11 women whose sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo were detailed in a state attorney general's report released earlier this week.
Cuomo's attorney says the governor was ambushed by this report, that he was not treated fairly by the investigation. She also rebutted some of the allegations made against Governor Cuomo even deconstructing small details from one accuser's account.
Let's bring in CNN's Erica Hill and Paula Reid. We also have our legal analyst with us, Caroline Polisi and Elie Honig.
Great to see you all.
Erica, what are the takeaways from what we just heard from these lawyers?
ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you pointed, what we heard there from the attorneys is they were really trying to poke holes in the A.G. report. What we heard over and over again, specifically from Rita Glavin there who's the attorney for the governor is her questioning the methodology of this investigation. She was questioning, frankly, the integrity and the independence of the investigators. She laid out that she believed it was a predetermined narrative. And she asked a lot of questions about whether they had asked, whether they had interviewed certain people, where the evidence was.
One thing we heard from her and the other attorneys that represent the executive chamber, the employees there of the state, were questions about why they hadn't received certain information. They want to see the transcripts. They want to see more of the evidence.
A lot of what we heard was sort of procedural in that nature, and questioning the way things were done, also I would say trying to place doubt in the mind of the public. Rita Glavin asked a lot of questions. Did they ask this person this, did they speak to this person, did they look into this? Did they ask about those conversations? But wasn't necessarily following up with whether she knew if they had or not.
She talked about she thought those things were important. As you pointed out, Pamela, she did go through two specific -- well, really one specific allegation. She was asked about trooper number one. She was asked about assistant number one because the first criminal complaint against the governor was filed yesterday with the Albany sheriff's office.
What she did, she ticked through a timeline that we actually got from her in response to the report on Tuesday in the position statement. So she went through a long time line saying that these were the records that they had from the governor's mansion on that day, which was a timeline of when executive assistant number one was there, her email exchanges with other staffers, what happened in those email exchanges. [16:45:07]
And this they had laid out in that position statement, and she did again today, to make the case that what executive assistant number one said happened, that that was the day that the governor, she alleges, put his hand under her blouse and cupped her breast over her bra. They were laying out why they don't believe that that could have happened.
They say it did not happen, the governor has denied it because of the length of time that she was there, the exchanges on email she was having with other staffers. And what they believe that showed in terms of her demeanor, that she was joking and talking about eating snacks, that she had had a conversation with the governor that she seemed to be fine with it. So, therefore, she couldn't have been upset. So, that's part of what she was laying out in response to that particular allegation.
BROWN: And then on the state trooper allegation, she made it clear that Governor Cuomo himself wants to address that. She didn't say when that would happen, but we do expect him to at some point.
Paula, what more are you learning about the governor's overall defense strategy here?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, if there is any good news at all for the governor, it's the fact that criminal charges are not a guarantee. If criminal charges are brought, they are going to be difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt which is why sexual harassment claims are typically handled in criminal court.
But at this point, this is not in a criminal court. This is arguably in the court of public opinion. And here is defense attorneys came out and they directly attacked and tried to undermine the credibility of two of his accusers.
The problem is, there's nine other women who had made accusations and found credible by the state attorney general. Now, you mentioned a very significant accuser, and that is that female state trooper who was assigned to the governor's detail. Now, she is currently at the center of investigations being run by three district attorneys.
She has made allegations of improper touching by the governor that extend across multiple jurisdictions. The fact that Ms. Glavin could not directly deny or address her allegations was notable, and the fact that as you just said she said that at some time in the future the governor himself is going to come out and publicly address those allegations, that was really surprising to me because arguably of all the accusers she is the one who is most likely to be at the heart of any criminal charges if they are brought.
So the fact that they really didn't have any way to deflect or defend against those accusations, that was really notable here. But in this use of their national platform, they addressed about 20 percent of the accusations as unlikely that this defense strategy is really going to change the hearts and minds of assembly members who are currently weighing these questions of possible impeachment.
BROWN: Right because you have the legal and the impeachment aspect of this.
Caroline, the governor's personal attorney also laid out this argument that the governor was ambushed, that he was not treated fairly by this investigation, as Erica laid out, they tried to poke holes in this investigation overall, questioning why didn't they issue subpoenas for this day in November when this executive assistant is making these allegations? Why didn't they do this, why didn't they talk to this person? Why aren't they releasing the evidence and the full transcripts?
What is your response to the defense overall?
CAROLINE POLISI, CNN LEGAN ANALYST: So, my initial reaction is that it's sort of a piece of that video montage we saw earlier of the governor hugging people. Very irrelevant and almost cringe-worthy.
The part about, you know, the issue with executive assistant number one and going through piece by piece that timetable and her reading her response about how much she likes cheese and crackers as though that were some type of smoking gun, that really, really fell flat. It wouldn't be a good defense if it were only these two claimants. But the fact is, as Paula just alluded to there, there are nine others that they just didn't address.
And so, when you get down to it, at its barest bones, what they're arguing has to be a conspiracy theory that all of these women are somehow lying, that Tish James' office has an ax to grind. And you saw little threads there throughout of this big conspiracy theory, everybody's against Governor Cuomo. I thought it fell really flat, and I don't think it's going to work.
BROWN: Elie, what do you think? Why would the New York attorney general withhold the full transcripts of the interviews in this investigation? Why aren't we seeing more, and what is your view of the overall defense?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah, Pam. So, first of all, the first takeaway here is Governor Cuomo is not going without a fight here. There was some speculation will he be resigning, is this going to be dragged out? I mean, he is going to fight this tooth and nail all the way until the end. I really sort of separate this into two arguments.
The first argument is a process argument. I don't think we should be dismissive of their process arguments. Governor Cuomo's attorneys, this is a one-sided fight so far. The investigators, and I know Joon Kim personally, I worked with him, he's an excellent lawyer, but they have not turned over really if many materials.
I think that's a fair argument. Process matters. That said, on the substance Cuomo's lawyers have nothing at this point.
[16:50:04] I mean, it was very, very unconvincing. Trying to pick apart executive assistant one just because she stayed at the mansion for a few hours after the alleged incident, I mean, that completely misconstrues how sexual assault works, how victims act and react, and as some of the other panelists have said, there are 11 different complainants here. And it's not just the word of those 11 complainants, the investigators found that they were backed up by other evidence, by documents, by emails and texts that they sent at the time of these incidents.
So I think on the merits, Governor Cuomo's team has very little to go on here.
BROWN: Right. And, to your point, one of the assembly members was tweeting she had been a victim of sexual harassment. And she said, look, I was sexually harassed and then I went and had lunch because the time line that was laid out there does not tell you anything conclusively.
And, Paula, what is clear here is that a big part of the strategy is to undermine not only the credibility of the report itself but also the stories from some of these women. Iu mean, Governor Cuomo's attorney, as we've been talking about, really reconstructed this time line of executive assistant number one's account, very specifically down to the floor of the mansion where the cheese and crackers are usually served.
Do the accusers' stories add up? Are there holes?
REID: She raised some excellent questions. She had a PowerPoint. She was putting on a pretty aggressive defense, as the governor is entitled to, even though he hasn't been criminally charged. He's even asking questions about the structural integrity of the governor's mansion and how loud a door slam would be.
But it was pretty in the weeds given the fact that the big question right now is a really a political one and his political future. And yes, they're going to come out and fight. Yes, he is entitled to a vigorous defense but you only addressed 20 percent of the case.
You have 11 women here. You've addressed two. You were unable to address the one that is really at the center of multiple criminal investigations. And when you were asked about retaliation, the hostile work environment, she just dismissed that and said the governor isn't going to retaliate against anyone.
Well, the state attorney general begs to differ. That was one of the key findings in this report.
So at this point again, it remains in the court of public opinion, but it's not clear that here today this tactic of holding a press conference has really overcome the significant findings we heard on Tuesday.
BROWN: And also, Erica, it's worth pointing out that Governor Cuomo was the one that told the public to withhold judgment until the investigation has been completed. Now the report is out there. He was the one that appointed the attorney general in New York to oversee the investigation. But now his attorney is saying this wasn't fair, this wasn't properly done.
HILL: I mean, look, we've been hearing that for the last couple of months that, yes, it was in fact the governor who said go ahead and do this independent investigation, and then there has been a lot of politicizing of it, right, and allegations that it was politicized.
You know, really, and if we're looking at what happens next, to Elie's point, maybe there is some information that needs to be shared. But what we're all kind of waiting for right now is what happens with this impeachment?
So we know that the judiciary committee had said yesterday in a letter to the governor's attorneys that they are nearing completion. They offered for those attorneys, they invited them to submit any additional evidence. Rita Glavin said they want to know a little bit more about the evidence that the judiciary committee that the assembly has so they know what they're responding to.
But they have until next Friday at 5:00 p.m. to submit that additional evidence. And then, we wait and see if articles of impeachment will in fact be submitted. That's where we're at from a political standpoint at the moment.
BROWN: And legally, Caroline, where is Governor Cuomo most exposed right now? And how significant is that criminal complaint that was recently filed?
POLISI: Right. So, it's an interesting question because there are sort of two prongs here. We have significant behavior that really is clearly in the realm of civil charges or violations of Title VII, sexual harassment, those types of things. And then today, as we noted, we are taking a step into potentially criminal territory here. Arguably two of the alleged incidents that are detailed in the report both the state trooper as well as the one we were talking about today with executive assistant number one, that could fall under New York state, a criminal statute there, a low-level sort of misdemeanor, carries with it up to one year in prison.
It's not typically the types of things that district attorneys go after. And just to give you a point of comparison, Cy Vance had Ambra Gutierrez on tape telling Harvey Weinstein admitting to doing things and even then he didn't bring charges. This would be very, very interesting to see which attorneys, which many of whom came out and said they are going to open up investigations, it's going to be a pretty high bar that they're setting in terms of surmounting reasonable doubt because it is a higher standard in criminal court.
BROWN: And, Elie, this raises questions about the legal definition of retaliation. Why is that so important in this case? HONIG: Yeah. One of the most damning allegations, when I did not hear
addressed at all today, is that the governor's office, the people around the governor retaliated against several of these witnesses. That first of all could give rise to civil liability. There could be a lawsuit over that.
It also goes to consciousness of guilt. You wouldn't retaliate against somebody unless you had bad attentions, unless you feared what that person had to say. So, watch for that as we move forward through impeachment and potentially civil suits and potentially even criminal suits as well.
BROWN: All right. Thank you all so much. We'll be right back.
BROWN: And be sure to tune in to CNN this Sunday for "STATE OF THE UNION." Dana Bash talks to Senator Bill Cassidy, Senator Dick Durbin, Congresswoman Cori Bush and senior Biden adviser, Anita Dunn. That is 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern.
And you can also catch me Saturdays and Sundays starting at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.
I'm Pamela Brown in for Jake Tapper. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Have a great weekend.