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Raisi Will Be Sworn in Thursday and have One Week to Present Cabinet; Khamenei Formally Endorses Ebrahim Raisi As President; Attorney General: Cuomo & his Office "Violated Multiple State & Federal Laws"; NY AG Finds Governor Cuomo Sexually Harassed Multiple Women; Special Investigator: Governor Cuomo's Office Created Environment "Rife with Bullying, Fear & Limitation". Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired August 03, 2021 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNNI HOST: Now Iran ushering in a new era of politics that cannot fix the country's deep rooted troubles. I'm Becky Anderson. Hello
and welcome back to "Connect the World". Ebrahim Raisi's ascension to the presidency means conservatives now control all leavers of power in Iran.
Today's formal endorsement by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, coming about six weeks after the Supreme Leader's handpicked candidate won an election in
which more than half the electorate didn't cast their ballots.
That low voter turnout are a result of the big challenges facing Raisi as he takes office and economy crippled by American sanctions COVID-19 surging
to record levels and those nuclear talks, all but stalled.
Now Raisi will officially be sworn in on Thursday and will have a week to present his new cabinet to Parliament. Fred Pleitgen looks at Raisi's
initial tough stance as he tries to get those debilitating sanctions lifted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Iran's political transition is nearly complete as the incoming hardline
President; Ebrahim Raisi is officially accepted by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Raisi vowing to try and get sanctions on Iran lifted but not
cooperate with countries like the U.S.
We will definitely seek to eliminate and lift the tyrannical sanctions he said we will not make the people's livelihood conditional. We will not tie
all these things to foreigners, we will definitely pursue the matters that are immediate issues for us and we are facing today.
Iran faces a multitude of immediate issues. The economy continues to struggle as tough sanctions put in place by the Trump Administration
continue to take their toll.
Water shortages have recently led to demonstrations, some of them violent in parts of the country. With Iran Supreme Leader saying he understands the
protesters and that their demands need to be addressed.
Raisi vowing to tackle the matter these matters have been detected. I assure the people that the solutions have been delineated, and we have
benefited from the views of experts and scholars and this will be urgently dealt with.
Raisi will take office amid heightened tensions with the West. The U.S. Israel and the UK are blaming Iran for the drone attack on the Israeli link
to tanker Mercer Street, an attack that killed two sailors from Britain and Romania.
ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We are in very close contact in coordination with United Kingdom, Israel, Romania and other countries. And
there will be a collective response.
PLEITGEN (voice over): Iran denies the allegations and is warning against any retaliation. The incoming administration in Tehran says it will get
tougher on the U.S. while negotiations are continuing to try and revive the Iran nuclear agreement. Ebrahim Raisi has already shocked out any direct
talks with Washington. When asked at a recent press conference, if he would speak with President Biden, he simply said no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Fred Pleitgen in Tehran for us today as you was, of course for that election back in June. Many will say what we are hearing from this new
hardline president is nothing new, though. It does just underline that it's clear.
It's going to be more difficult, perhaps not less for Washington and indeed perhaps Europeans going forward to have any sort of relationship with
Tehran. Is that what your sources are telling you?
PLEITGEN: Well, it certainly is going to become more difficult. And I think you're absolutely right. Not many people were surprised by many of the
things that Ebrahim Raisi said today.
But there certainly is going to be a fundamental shift, both in Iranian politics here at home, as far as domestic policy is concerned as far as
economic policy, economic policy is concerned, but as far as foreign policy is concerned, as well.
And I think one of the key things that Ebrahim Raisi pointed out today is that, you know some of the things that we saw in the past from the Rouhani
Administration where they were trying to get foreign direct investment here into Iran, where they were banking a lot on the Iran Nuclear Agreement on
sanctions relief on foreign direct investment and building the economy through foreign companies coming into here.
That's not something that Ebrahim Raisi wants to do. He says yes, there is going to be a push to try and get the sanctions lifted, obviously try and
get the Iran nuclear agreement back into full force. But at the same time, they want to build the economy as they put it from within what they call a
resistance economy that is impervious to things like sanctions.
PLEITGEN: Now, of course, there are a lot of people internationally who believe that that is going to be very difficult who question whether or not
in a globally linked economy that can be done at all. But that certainly is the way that the rate you see administration wants to move forward.
And if you look at foreign policy, certainly Ebrahim Raisi from day one, from the first press conference that he gave after the election, made clear
that there is going to be a very dynamic foreign policy on the part of Iran.
And that right now, as you pointed out, the Military and the presidency is going to be very much on the same page. Not like it was, as we saw during
the years of the Rouhani Administration at times.
So you will be able to see that and certainly the Iranians are saying they are going to maintain a very forceful policy and there is going to, of
course, be a Military element to that as well. Becky.
ANDERSON: Fled Pleitgen is on the ground in Tehran for you, Fred, thank you. To Ukraine, where a Belarusian activist has been found dead, let me
explain. Vitaly Shishov was found hanged in a park on a murder investigation is underway, fled a group that helped people who wanted to
leave the repressive government in Belarus.
People like Kristina Timanovskaya; she's an Olympic sprinter who refuses to go back. She says she's afraid; she'll be arrested and has received a visa
from Poland. CNN International Security Editor Nick Paton Walsh is joining me now connecting us to this story from London.
Nick of course, he's done an awful lot of reporting on Belarus and the situation for dissidents of Belarus. What do we know about this incident,
this hanging in Kiev?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: At this stage it is of course subject to all the conspiracy theories and conjecture you might
expect around an incident like this.
A Belarusian dissident working to get other distance out into Ukraine where he is found, after it seems being hung to death in a forest where he seems
to have been on a run, his mobile phone discarded near him.
Now Police say they're looking at two possible theories here as they investigate that it was suicide, or that it was premeditated murder
disguised as suicide. Now quite who would want to kill a Belarusian distant like this, the first finger points directly to the Belarusian government?
But I have to say that would be an outlier action for them. They're increasingly I think bold or outrageous, you might say and what they do,
forcing to land a Ryanair jet in May. You've just talked about the athlete in Tokyo sent home; I've just spoken to her more about that conversation in
But Vitaly Shishov, the Police say had some abrasions on his face that suggests possibly you might think a struggle or Police say that may have
been a result of him having a singular fault if, for example, he was hanging himself and something went wrong with that.
Its unclear things of course, being pointed towards a Belarusian Government but I should stress again, they haven't done this sort of thing before. But
then again, they haven't forced planes to land or sent their sports people home or attempted to, certainly.
So it fits a pattern, maybe of a Belarusian government feeling bolder and bolder by the week on the international stage, feeling impunity. That's a
phrase used by the opposition leader here in London to meet UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier when I spoke to her.
But startling and certainly I think making many Belarusians abroad deeply concerned for their safety, Becky.
ANDERSON: What did she tell you?
WALSH: The athlete, Kristina Timanovskaya, she said the first time that she realized she wouldn't be able to get back to Belarus to old life was when
she spoke to her grandmother. She said she was on the way to the airport, accompanied by two people from her team.
And her grandmother said, look you want to - I'm paraphrasing here, forgive me, but her grandmother said you're on television here. They're being very
critical about you. I'm not sure you're going to be able to come back to the life that you thought you had back here in Belarus.
She clearly knew there was going to be a problem. Now this is not a political person by any stretch of the imagination remember--
ANDERSON: OK Nick, I am going to stop you there for one second. We've got some news coming in from the New York Attorney General. Let's listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: Special deputies to the Attorney General's office to announce the findings of their investigation into
allegations of sexual harassment made against Governor Andrew Cuomo.
I'll make a brief statement and then turn it over to Ms. Clark and to Mr. Kim, who will delve into the investigations findings. The independent
investigation has concluded that Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women.
And in doing so violated federal and state law, specifically the investigation found that Governor Andrew Cuomo, sexually harass current and
former New York State Employees by engaging in unwelcome and nonconsensual touching, and making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual
nature that created a hostile work environment for women.
JAMES: The investigators independently corroborated and substantiated these facts through interviews and evidence, including contemporaneous notes and
communications. This evidence will be made available to the public along with the report.
This investigation was started after a number of women publicly alleged that they had been sexually harassed by Governor Cuomo. And on March 1 of
this year, the governor's office made a referral to my office pursuant to State Executive Law 638 regarding these allegations.
Executive Law Section 638 permits the New York Attorney General's office with the approval of the governor or when directed by the governor to
inquire into matters concerning the public peace, the public safety and public justice.
This referral issued by the governor enabled my office to appoint independent outside investigators to look into these allegations. And on
March 8, 2021 and Clark Joon Kim, they were officially deputized as special deputies.
Ms. Clark and Mr. Kim and their respective firms were chosen to lead this investigation because of their decades of work at the highest levels, their
deep expertise on matters and question and their careers fighting to uphold the rule of law.
And Clark is a partner at Vladeck, Raskin & Clark, P.C, where she focuses on employment law issues on behalf of employees at the trial and appellate
And during her more than 30 year career, Ms. Clark has represented clients in a variety of employment, sexual harassment and other discrimination
cases in the private sector, in education and in government.
She also has deep experience with retaliation, whistleblower, breach of contract and compensation and benefits cases. Joon Kim is a partner at
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. And for more than two decades, he has worked at the highest levels of government and in private practice.
From March 2017 to January 2018, he served as the acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York as the most senior federal
law enforcement officer in the district. He oversaw all criminal and civil litigation conducted on behalf of the United States.
Before becoming acting United States Attorney, Mr. Kim served in various leadership positions in the office, including Deputy United States
Attorney, Chief of the Criminal Division and Chief Counsel to the United States Attorney.
Ms. Clark and Mr. Kim are experienced, credible and deeply respected professionals. And together, they ensure that this investigation was both
independent and thorough.
Over the course of the five month investigation, the investigator spoke to 179 individuals, including complainants, current and former members of the
executive chamber, state troopers, additional state employees and others who interacted regularly with the governor.
In addition, they reviewed more than 74,000 pieces of evidence, including documents, emails, texts, audio files, and pictures. These interviews and
pieces of evidence reveal a deeply disturbing, yet clear picture.
Governor Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees in violation of both federal and state laws.
The independence investigation found that Governor Cuomo sexually harass multiple women, many of whom were young women by engaging in unwanted
groping, kisses, hugging and by making inappropriate comments.
Further, the governor and his senior team took actions to retaliate against at least one former employee for coming forward with our story, our truth.
JAMES: Governor Cuomo's administration fostered a toxic workplace that enabled harassment and created a hostile work environment where staffers
did not feel comfortable coming forward with complaints about sexual harassment due to a climate of fear and given the power dynamics.
The investigators found that Governor Cuomo's actions and those of the executive chamber violated multiple state and federal laws, as well as the
executive chambers own written policies.
This investigation has revealed conduct that corrodes the very fabric and character of our state government and shines light on injustice that can be
present at the highest levels of government. But none of this, none of this would have been eliminated, if not for the heroic women who came forward.
And I am inspired by all the brave women who came forward. But more importantly, I believe them. And I thank them for their bravery. And I
thank the independent investigators for their professionalism, despite the attacks and for their dogged determination that brought us to the truth.
And now, we will hear from Joon Kim and Anne Clark, who will walk us through the report and their findings.
JOON KIM, SDNY SPECIAL INVESTIGATOR: Thank you, Attorney General James. Good morning. My name is Joon Kim along with my colleague, Anne Clark. We
have led the teams at our two - we have led our teams at our two law firms in conducting the investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by
We've now completed our investigation and have made our findings and reached our conclusions. They're set forth in a detailed report issued
today. As set forth in the report, we find that the governor on numerous occasions engaged in conduct that constitutes unlawful sex based
Specifically, you find that the governor sexually harassed a number of current and former New York State employees. He did so by among other
things, engaging in unwelcome and nonconsensual touching and also repeatedly making comments of a sexualized or gender based nature.
Our investigation revealed that these were not isolated incidents. They were part of a pattern. The governor's pattern of sexually harassing
behavior was not limited to members of his own staff, but extended to other state employees, including a state trooper who served on his protective
There are 11 complainants whose allegations are set forth in great detail in the report. Nine of them are or were employed by the State of New York
or a state affiliated entity. The complainants interacted with the governor under different circumstances.
For example, some of them met with him regularly as an executive assistant or as members of his staff, or as I said, as a trooper on his protective
detail, while others only met him once. But all of them experienced harassing conduct from the governor.
Some suffered through unwanted touching and grabbing of their most intimate body parts. Others suffered through repeated offensive, sexually suggestive
or gender based comments. A number of them endured both. None of them welcomed it. And all of them found it disturbing, humiliating,
uncomfortable and inappropriate.
KIM: And now we find that it was unlawful sex based harassment. Our investigation has also found that the executive chamber responded to
allegations of sexual harassment in ways that violated their own internal policies and also constituted unlawful retaliation with respect to one of
And finally, based on our investigation, we concluded that the executive chambers workplace culture, one, rife with bullying, fear and intimidation
on the one hand, while normalizing frequent flirtations and gender based comments by the governor on the other, created the conditions that allowed
the sexual harassment and retaliation to occur and to persist.
The Attorney General has said we reach these findings and conclusions after a thorough and independent investigation. We were allowed to and did follow
the facts without fear without favor. As you will see in the report, our findings are supported by extensive evidence.
That includes interviews and testimony from 179 witnesses and review of 10s of 1000s of documents. I'll now turn it over to my colleague Anne Clark, to
walk through some of the specifics related to the sexual harassment, the policy violations and the retaliation.
ANNE CLARK, SDNY SPECIAL INVESTIGATOR: We find that the governor on many occasions engaged in sex based harassing conduct and conversations. The
most serious was the governor's unwelcome physical contact with women, including touching intimate body parts.
He engaged in this conduct with state employees, including those who didn't work in the executive chamber, as well as non-employees. One current
employee, who we identify as executive assistant number one, endured repeated physical violations.
On November 16, 2020, in the Executive Mansion, the governor hugged executive assistant number one and reached under her blouse to grab her
This was the culmination of a pattern of inappropriate sexual conduct, including numerous close and intimate hugs, where the governor held her so
closely that her breasts were pressed against his body, and he sometimes ran his hands up and down her back while he did so.
There were also several occasions on which the governor grabbed her butt. Executive assistant number one had vowed that she was going to take these
violations as she put it to the grave. She was terrified that if she spoke out, she would lose her job.
But she broke down in front of colleagues, when she heard the governor on March 3, 2021, in his press conference claim that he had never touched
She then confided in her coworkers who saw her breakdown as to what had happened, and they were the ones that reported the conduct to Attorneys and
Executive Chamber. The governor also several times inappropriately touched a state trooper assigned to the unit to protect the governor.
In an elevator while standing behind the trooper, he ran his finger from her neck down her spine and said hey you, another time she was standing
holding the door open for the governor. As he passed, he took his open hand and ran it across her stomach from her belly button to where the hip where
she keeps her gun.
She told us that she felt completely violated to have the governor touch her as she put it between her chest and her privates. The governor also
inappropriately touched women who were attending work related events, which the governor made remarks.
At one event in September 2019, while having his picture taken with an employee of a state entity, the governor grabbed this young woman's butt.
At another event in May of 2017, the governor pressed and ran his fingers across the chest of a woman while reading the name of her company whose
logo was on her chest.
The governor also engaged in a widespread pattern of subjecting women to unwanted hugs and kisses and touching them in ways that made them
Conduct that is not just old fashioned affectionate behavior as he and some of his staff members would have it, but unlawful sex based harassment. In
addition to the physical conduct, our investigation found that the governor regularly made comments to staff members and state employees that were
offensive and gender based.
CLARK: For example, the governor crossed the line many times when speaking with Charlotte Bennett, a briefer and executive assistant, particularly in
spring of 2020. When she can fight it in the governor that she had been sexually assaulted in college, he asked her for the details of her assault.
When talking about potential girlfriends, he said he thought he could date women as young as 22, knowing that Ms. Bennett was 25 at the time. He asked
her whether she had ever been with older men. He told her that he was lonely and wanted to be touched.
He asked her if she was monogamous and what she thought about monogamy. He speculated on how her history as a sexual assault survivor might affect her
romantic life. He told her that she looked like Daisy Duke.
He suggested that she got a tattoo she was contemplating on her butt, and asked her if she had any piercings anywhere other than her ears. Ms.
Bennett texted to a friend on the day where many of these comments were made, that she was upset and confused, and that she was shaking.
Another example is the governor's comments to the state trooper, the same trooper he touched on the stomach and back. After the governor had become
single, he asked the trooper how old she was. When she responded that she was in her late 20s, he said, that's too old for him.
He then asked her how much of an age difference he thought he could have between him and a girlfriend and have the public still accepted. She
suggested it might be a good idea to stick with women at least as old as your daughters.
She then tried to deflect the conversation by asking the governor what he was looking for in a girlfriend. He responded that he was looking for
somebody who could handle pain.
Another time when the governor found out that the trooper was engaged, he asked her why she wants to get married because among other things, your sex
drive goes down.
As detailed in the report, employees were counted a pattern of similarly offensive comments and conversations, such as the governor repeatedly
asking executive assistant number one, whether she would cheat on her husband.
Saying to her, if you were single the things I would do to you, telling her that she looked great for her age, which was early 30s and for a mother,
calling her and coworker Alyssa McGrath mingle mamas, comparing Lindsey Boylan to a more attractive version of one of his ex-girlfriends and to
Women also described to us having the governor seek them out, stare intently at them, look them up and down or gaze at their chest or butt.
In sum, the governor routinely interacted with women in ways that focused on their gender, sometimes in explicitly sexualized manner in ways that
women found deeply humiliating and offensive.
Both federal and state law prohibits gender based harassment in the workplace. In fact, the governor himself in August of 2019 passed a law
that change, eliminated in New York State the requirement that harassing conduct needed to be severe or pervasive.
In New York, a woman need only show that she was treated less well, at least in part because of her gender. The governor's conduct detailed in the
report clearly meets and far exceeds the standard. We also find the executive chamber failed to follow its own harassment policies and
Ones that on paper is consistent with New York legal requirements. This was exemplified by the handling of Charlotte Bennett's complaint. In June of
2020, Ms. Bennett told the governor's Chief of Staff about recent conversations of a sexual nature that were so uncomfortable that she no
longer wanted to interact with the governor.
The Chief of Staff relayed Ms. Bennett's complaints to others in the governor's inner circle and transferred Ms. Bennett within days. Two weeks
later, the Chief of Staff and a special counsel spoke with Ms. Bennett, who detailed interactions with the governor that went back to May of 2019.
The Chief of Staff and special counsel both found Ms. Bennett to be credible. The Chief of Staff consulted with the special counsel and with
Melissa DeRosa, the Secretary to the governor, and they decided they did not need to report this to the Governor's Office of Employee Relations GOER
or conduct any meaningful investigation.
They simply moved Ms. Bennett and instituted a policy of not having a junior staffer be alone with the governor, and even that they said was to
protect the governor.
That response we find was a violation of the executive chambers harassment policy, which clearly requires that all possible harassment be reported to
GOER and investigated.
Six months later in December of 2020 when Lindsey Boylan tweeted that she had been sexually harassed by the governor, the executive chamber once
again failed to report the issue to goer.
CLARK: Although Mr. Rosa, the Special Counsel and certain other advisors knew about the allegations that Charlotte Bennett had made that the Special
Counsel had found credible. No one treated was Boylan's allegations seriously, other than as a threat to the Governor.
Rather than any effort to determine if the governor had engaged in a pattern of sexually harassing behavior, a team of senior staffers, former
staffers, and outside confidence with no official title or role mobilized to attack and try to neutralize Ms. Boylan by sharing disparaging
information with the press.
Within hours of Ms. Boylan's December 13th, 2020 tweet alleging sexual harassment key members of the governor's inner circle had obtained
confidential memos. Once the re stamped attorney client privileged, there were primarily about an interaction between this Boylan and an assistant
then redacted the names of individuals other than Ms. Boylan, and started sending the memos to reporters.
There was also a proposed letter or op-ed drafted by the governor that went through several drafts. The letter attacked Ms. Boylan for alleged conduct
at work for alleged conduct with men other than the governor, as well as postulating various political conspiracies, including that Ms. Boylan was
funded by far right Republicans and supporters of Donald Trump.
Although the letter was never published, it was sent or read to a variety of people outside the Executive Chamber, either to get their advice, or ask
them to sign their names to it, and shared ultimately with at least one member of the press.
The governor was arguing for the release of that letter. He was finally convinced to abandon it by a number of people who thought the letter was a
bad idea, in part because what was in the letter couldn't be substantiated. And because they thought that victim shaming would be bad as a strategy.
Both federal and state law prohibits an employer from taking any action that would dissuade a reasonable employee or former employee from making or
supporting a charge of discrimination. Under that standard, the confidential release of internal records to the press and the dissemination
of letter disparaging Ms. Boylan constituted unlawful retaliation.
I will now turn it back to Mr. Kim to say a few words about our findings with respect to the workplace culture within the Executive Chamber.
JOON KIM, SPECIAL INVESTIGATOR: Thank you, Ms. Clark. As set forth in our report, we find that the culture within the Executive Chamber contributed
to the conditions that allowed the governor's sexually harassing conduct to occur and to persist.
The culture also informed the way in which the Executive Chamber responded to allegations of sexual harassment, as Ms. Clark has described through
violations of their own policies and through unlawful retaliation. What was the culture?
Words that witnesses have used repeatedly to describe it include toxic, hostile and abusive. Others use words like fear, intimidation, bullying,
vindictive as one senior staffer, stated bluntly, as the sexual harassment allegations became public, in March of this year in text exchanges, with
others - with another in the executive team - in the administration.
I "Hopefully, when this is all done, people will realize the culture, even outside of the sexual harassment stuff, am not something you can get away
with. You can't berate and terrify people 24/7".
It was a culture where you could not say no to the governor. And if you if you upset him or his - him or his senior staff, you will be written off,
cast aside or worse. But at the same time, the witnesses described a culture that normalized and overlooked everyday flirtations, physical,
intimacy and inappropriate comments by the governor.
One senior staffer testified that at a work event, she sat on the governor's lap. Another staffer said she would call kissing the governor on
the lips. The governor testified that those things may have happened with senior staffers.
One complainant described her interactions with the governor by saying they were "Strange and uncomfortable", but it was like "The Twilight Zone". The
typical rules do not apply.
KIM: You should just view it as a compliment "If the governor finds you aesthetically pleasing enough". The coexistence in the executive chamber
Executive Chambers culture of fear and flirtation, intimidation and intimacy, abuse and affection, created a work environment ripe for
As another complainant testified, and I "What makes it so hard to describe every single inappropriate incident is the culture of the place. On the one
hand, he makes all this inappropriate and creepy behavior normal and like you should not complain. On the other hand, you see people getting punished
and scream that if you do anything, where you disagree with him, or his top aides. I really just wanted to go to work and be recognized for my work and
Charlotte Bennett, the complainant as Clark mentioned who was transferred after she reported inappropriate comments by the governor to senior staff,
summarized her experience in a text message as follows.
"The verbal abuse, intimidation, and living in constant fear, were all horribly toxic, dehumanizing and traumatizing. And then he came on to me. I
was scared to imagine what would happen if I rejected him. So I disappeared instead. My time in public service ended because he was bored and lonely.
It still breaks my heart".
That's a quote from a text that Ms. Bennett wrote. The culture this culture made it all the more difficult, if not impossible, for complainants to
report the harassment from which there was suffering, particularly when the harasser was the Governor of the State of New York.
But one by one, one courageous woman after another stepped forward. They step forward to say enough is enough. They came forward in our
investigation to tell us about their experiences, the harassment they suffered at the hands of the governor.
In our report, we've used their words and their words, so long silenced, speak loudly for themselves. These brave women stepped forward to speak
truth to power. And in doing so, they expressed faith in the belief that although the governor may be powerful, the truth is even more so. This is
what lies at the heart of our investigation and the findings in our report.
LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: We will now take questions and the questioning will be directed by Delaney Kempner.
DELANEY KEMPNER: Please say your name and your outlet.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: --the governor will be facing and I noticed that a civil investigation but were you making any referrals to prosecutors so
that he could face the state or federal charges?
JAMES: We went - our work has concluded and document is now public. And the matter is a civil in nature and is not - does not have any criminal
consequences. It is my understanding.
CLARK: I will state that it's our understanding that for the young woman who breast was groped to the Albany Police Department already has report
about that. As for anything else, as the attorney general stated, all the information is fully documented in the report and any prosecutors or police
departments can look at the evidence and determine if they want to take further action.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: --now that the report that concluded will your office and sharing it with the assembly's committee that is investigating whether
or not these are impeachable offenses and what's the coordination between the office and the --?
JAMES: There was no coordination between the Office of Attorney General and the assembly.
JAMES: The document is now public and will be distributed to members of the assembly as well as the leadership.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can the governor - Bernadette Hogan from New York Post. Can the governor be sued in any way? Is there a statute of
limitations? Or are there any penalties specifically candidates reporting?
CLARK: Sure, there's no penalties specifically tied to this report. Women can decide some of them can decide themselves if they want to bring a civil
action. The statute of limitations is generally three years under one federal statute in the state law and a little bit shorter under another
federal statute, although for hostile work environments, as long as one act occurs within the statute limitations, one can go back to cover the entire
hostile work environment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And in regards to the violation against infected chambers on policy, what kinds of violations could be?
CLARK: I can't think of a specific law that that would violate, but that certainly is taken into account in determining liability for sexual
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --can I ask you - do you think the governor given the devastating nature of this report, and I get what you're saying about it's
up to the local prosecutors are they want to move forward on this? If you think that this would all be wrapped up well, if you would resolve?
JAMES: That decision ultimately is up to the Governor of the State of New York. The report speaks for itself. Like, and right now, I think we should
all be focused on the courageous, and bravery of the women who came forward - based on keeping women safe, believing women, and allowing them to speak
their truth. And that's exactly what this document does.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --from the NBC. You mentioned in your opening remarks today, defending the credentials of your investigators, personally bothered
by the governor's own remarks in the past week or so that you could just Google their backgrounds and draw your own conclusion that this is a
politically motivated investigation.
JAMES: There were attempts to undermine and to politicize this investigation. And there were attacks on me as well as members of the team,
which I find offensive. And that focus, again, should be on the bravery and the courage of these 11 women, and of the others who came forward.
These allegations were substantiated. They were corroborated. And the team before you, Ms. Clark and Mr. Kim, are professionals who are widely
respected not only in New York, but all across this nation. And I support their work, will defend their work. And I believe these women--
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --from New York One. You mentioned that it corroborated a lot of what the witness testimony was when you spoke with her in the
investigation. When you interviewed Governor Cuomo, did he admit you or denying the majority of what was said here?
CLARK: There was a combination, there are some incidents that he admitted to but had a different interpretation of, and there were other things that
he denied or said he didn't recall.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell a little bit more about. Can you speak a little bit more about what that conversation - in our conversation was like
the other week.
CLARK: I can't recount all of that, as I said, there were certain things like he admitted that he asked Ms. Bennett, whether she had been involved
with older men. He denied touching the state trooper, although he said he might have kissed her at an event.
And there were certain things that he turned around and said that, for example, the executive assistant number one that he did hug her repeatedly,
but claim she was the one who initiated the hugs. So it was a mixture of admitting to certain things, but putting a different spin on them and
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Shimon Prokupecz from CNN. So what are the next steps here? You have this report, obviously
a lot of devastating information and a lot of people are going to ask OK, so what happens next? And you're not referring it for criminal charges?
What are the next steps that you would like to see perhaps maybe the assembly take or someone else take to have some other kind of punishment or
something else here? Because right now, it just seems like you have this report. And in fact--
JAMES: We were tasked with the responsibility of engaging in an investigation and we have concluded our investigation and our work is done.
And so as it relates to next steps, that's entirely up to the governor and or the assembly and the general public. But the work of the Office of the
Attorney General - about special deputies has concluded.
PROKUPECZ: Do you think the government should run for re-election?
JAMES: That's a political question. The work of the Office of the Attorney General is done.
KEMPNER: We're going to take more questions in here and then we're going to go.
DANA RUBENSTEIN, NEW YORK TIMES: Hi, this is Dana Rubenstein from "The New York Times". This is a little bit of a hypothetical but an individual with
a history of running a workplace like this running for governor; would you consider that person fit to serve as the leader of New York?
CLARK: I don't engage in speculation, Dana. And the report speaks for itself. These substantiated and corroborate the allegations and - findings,
in effect, the governor violated state and federal laws.
KEMPNER: This is the last one here now we're going to go - Adam.
ADAM REESE, NBC NEWS: Adam Reese, NBC News. As a prosecutor and as an attorney general, are you frustrated that you can't move criminally on
these charges, numerous charges? Did you and the investigators have said or both stated violate state and federal law?
JAMES: Is that an issue of being frustrated. The issue we were tasked with the responsibility by the Governor of the State of New York to issue a
report. We have issued this report. And all throughout the process, we put our heads down, we've done our work. And at this point, the chip - we're
going to allow the chips to fall where they may.
KEMPNER: OK, we're going to go virtual now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, everybody. If you have a question, please click the raise hand button. If you have a question, please click the raise
hand button. First, we're going to hear from John Campbell from Gannett. John, your mic is open.
JOHN CAMPBELL: Hi Attorney General. I have a couple of questions. And I apologize. It's tough to hear some of the questions so that some of these
might be repeated. But the investigation into the governor's book - book deal as well as the staff resources that were used on that.
Does that remain ongoing that's separate from this is it's still ongoing? And also, can you make some sort of formal referral to prosecutors' offices
based on this report today? Or is that something that they would have to pick up the ball on their own?
JAMES: The investigation with respect to the book and whether or not public resources we utilize are ongoing, and it's separate and apart from this
investigation? And with regards to criminal jurisdiction, criminal jurisdiction usually is conveyed upon the Office of Attorney General
usually we get a request under the executive law.
And at this point in time, our work is concluded. And we will not be engaging in any criminal investigation with respect to the conduct of the
Governor of the State of New York.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our second question is from Josh Dorothy from Washington Post. Josh, your line is open. Josh, you have to unmute your line.
JOSH DOROTHY, WASHINGTON POST: Can you hear me now? I'm sorry.
JAMES: Yes, we can hear you Josh.
DOROTHY: I said hi, Attorney General.
JAMES: Hi Josh.
DOROTHY: There appear to be about 11 allegations here, 11 different victims. Did you find all 11 of the victims who came forward to be
credible? And were you able to find contemporaneous notes or proof about all 11 of the victims?
CLARK: We found all 11 women to be credible. There was corroboration to varying degrees. Probably at the end of it most corroborated. Charlotte
Bennett talked to people and texted people contemporaneously. Some of her texts were practically in real time regarding conversations with the
As well, the reports that she made to the Chief of Staff and the Special Counsel, their contemporaneous notes are quite consistent with what she's
said to the press and when she told us the state trooper the touching incidents. The one where he touched her stomach was witnessed by another
state trooper who confirmed it to us.
The kiss of- the governor kissed her once that was confirmed to us by another state trooper. And there were other incidents where she told people
the time. Other people that we spoke to did tell people at the time and we confirm with the people they spoke with or had written documentation either
text messages or emails in which they were counted things contemporaneously.
So things - when you see the report, everything is documented things were very well corroborated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next question is from Emma Kinery from Bloomberg News. Emma, your line is open.
EMMA KINERY, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Hello, thank you. I was wondering, you said that your work is done but there's still a criminal matter in place. What
would you - what will happen from there?
JAMES: So, I cannot speculate as to what will happen from external agencies and or external legislative bodies. That is entirely up to them. But as far
as the Office of Attorney General is concerned, our office and our investigation has concluded, we will be issuing this report as long along
with evidence to the general public.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our next question is from Ryan Tarinelli from "The New York Law Journal".
RYAN TARINELLI, THE NEW YORK LAW JOURNAL: Yes, can you hear me? OK.
TARINELLI: So I know that there was mention of a report to the Albany Police Department regarding the groping incident. Can you specify if that
was made by the Executive Chamber? Or has the victim herself stepped forward and given a report to the Albany Police Department?
KIM: It's our understanding that the report was made by the Executive Chamber.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our last question is from Rebecca Lewis from "City & State". Rebecca, your line is open.
REBECCA LEWIS, CITY & STATE: Hi, Attorney General. I just wanted to ask, you know, with this report out now, you said that you're not going to
speculate on whether the governor's pick to serve or free should run again, what do you want the public to take away from this report?
JAMES: That these 11 women were in a hostile and toxic work environment, and that we should believe women, and that what we have an obligation and a
duty to is to protect women in their workplace. And what this investigation revealed was a disturbing pattern of conduct by the Governor of the great
State of New York.
And those who basically did not put in place any protocols or procedures to protect these young women who believed in public service. I believe women
and I believe these 11 women. I thank you all for being here this morning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: A bombshell report and independent investigation into the - into the Democratic Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, the
Attorney General of New York right there laying out the findings. Let me bring in right now Former New York City Prosecutor Paul Callen, David
Chalian also here with me as well as Erica Hill. Paul, what is your reaction to what we just learned?
PAUL CALLEN, FORMER NYC PROSECUTOR: Kate, it's an utterly and completely shocking report really devastating for the reputation of Governor Andrew
Cuomo. This report was conducted by two very, very experienced lawyers. Joon Kim is a Former Acting U.S. Attorney in the very prestigious Southern
District of New York. And Clark is one of the best known attorneys, civil attorneys handling civil cases of sexual harassment in the United States.
And it appears to be a very extensive report, and it actually accuses the governor of activity that could even be criminal that there was some talk
there about touching the breast of somebody without their permission and authority. That would be a crime under New York law; the statute of
limitations may be gone on that by now.
And that's going to be an issue on all of these charges. But it's a shocker and a devastating indictment of the governor.
BOLDUAN: Erica 179 witnesses were interviewed, there are 11 people I assume all women allegations that are detailed in this report. Some of this we
knew publicly some we did not until this has come out. Let's keep the focus on these women. Tell me what you've learned.
ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate is 11 complaints we learned and nine of them Kate are current or former state employees. And Clark was
just asked there just how credible these complaints were? Were their stories corroborated?
And she specifically noted some of these different incidents that are detailed and report and laid out the history there to paint this picture.
One which we're learning a little bit more about is referred to as executive assistant.
Number one, Anne Clark laying out repeated violations with this woman that culminated in her words numerous repeated occasions she talked about how
executive assistant number one would talk about how the governor hugged her too tight, grabbed her butt and said that this person broke down in March
when she heard Governor Cuomo say at a press conference that he had never touched anyone inappropriately.
She was so disturbed by that. Also, these - were learning to from a state trooper who was one of these complainants who was on the governor's
security detail and the details that we were given again, just a short time ago that this state trooper was touched at one point the governor
reportedly running his finger along her neck then at one point touched her stomach moved his hand over to where her firearm was.
HILL: And this trooper saying she felt quote, completely violated. And in terms of how credible these 11 complainants are that question was just as
Anne Clark saying they found them all to be credible, that a number of them had other people who could corroborate their accounts.
She specifically referenced Charlotte Bennett, who of course for spoke to "The New York Times" also did a lengthy interview with CBS News detailing
what she experienced the conversations she experienced with the governor, where she talked about how he asked her about her experience as a survivor
of sexual assault, and asked her specifically about the details of that experience.
Talked to her about how he was lonely, how he would like a girlfriend, talk specifically about the age of a woman who would feel comfortable being
with, saying that that was about 22. She was 25 at the time. Anne Clark just saying that it was almost as if she was taking not just contemporary
incidents, but really in real time talking and texting about her conversations with the governor.
Why those made her feel uncomfortable? What she felt was inappropriate about it? Again, in those texts in the conversations, she brought it to the
Chief of Staff, and that what she had told the media really was backed up by all of these other reports so the detail not only of these allegations,
but again, Kate of the support that they found in terms of that evidence.
I mean that really too is what they were pointing to talking about this culture that was created this toxic work environment for so many women in
the Executive Chamber.
BOLDUAN: And attempts that retaliation when this was even raised. That's another part of this, David, just your reaction, of course, I'm going to go
back to Paul on kind of legal impact in fallout from this, but this is devastating. What's your reaction?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It is - I mean, the report itself is obviously damning. This is definitely one of Andrew Cuomo's, you know,
lowest days in in public life. But I think Tis James, the Attorney General's kind of put where we're going here next right?
She said, what happens next is up to the governor, will everything we know about Andrew Cuomo is he's not likely to resign his office over this in any
way. He's made that pretty clear. He's also indicated he really intends to run for re-election next year.
Then she said it's up to the assembly, meaning potential impeachment process underway. I don't think we have evidence yet at all from "The New
York State Assembly Legislature" overall, that removing Governor Cuomo from office is an assured thing here.
And she finally said it's going to be up to the voters. And I have a feeling that that is where this is going to end up politically, is that
voters are going to come to a determination if everything they heard today, if everything they read in this report is, you know, information that says
to them that Andrew Cuomo does not deserve to be governor anymore.
That will become clear I would imagine pretty quickly. I mean, it's already a tall task for Cuomo to ask the voters to send them back for a fourth
term, right? That's, that's already a tall task. But obviously, with this report, that gets tougher. And I would just note, though, this is the - you
listen to this today, Kate, this is the kind of stuff not that long ago would have been completely swept under the rug, we would know nothing about
this. But - bravery of these women--
BOLDUAN: 100 percent. 100 percent I'm sorry to jump in. But it's - what's killing me on this as well, is this continued through 2020. This isn't 2010
even this isn't the olden days. This is - this is a conduct and behavior that was the governor sexually harassed multiple women they document at
least from 2013 through 2020.
CHALIAN: Which is why you have to admire the strength, courage and bravery of these women to come forward exactly what you're saying that even in
2020, the pie - the power dynamic is so stacked against them and that way.
HILL: --one point on that, too, if you don't mind Kate. To that point from what we heard from Charlotte Bennett and this was again, just highlighted
by Joon Kim, who was talking about some of her text messages and the message that they said to what both - saying here about the power dynamic,
which she has talked about repeatedly.
And one of her text messages she said she feared what would happen if she rejected the governor. So "I disappeared instead". And he specifically
referenced that today to paint this picture of that power dynamic.
BOLDUAN: Yes, guys, thank you very much, Paul Callen, David Chalian and Erica Hill. Much more to come on this breaking news of this independent
investigation into get New York Governor Andrew Cuomo documenting multiple occasions of sexual harassment that stretched on for years by the governor.
John King picks up now.