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AG probe on Cuomo sexual harassment charges could be nearing its end

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Governor Cuomo's office
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo is scheduled to be interviewed Saturday by the state’s attorney general about allegations from multiple women that he sexually harassed them. 

The news, first reported in the New York Times, indicates that Attorney General Tish James’ investigation, launched in March, is reaching a new and critical phase. Several women who are accusing the governor of harassment -- and in one case, sexual assault -- have already been interviewed by investigators, according to their attorneys. Top aides to Cuomo have also been questioned.  

The governor’s account of the events will now be weighed against the depositions from the other witnesses. 

Cuomo denies the charges, and when he was first accused in late winter, he apologized if his actions had been misinterpreted. 

“I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” Cuomo said on March 3. “It was unintentional, and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly, I am embarrassed by it.” 

Since then, Cuomo has been increasingly defiant. He's predicted that the attorney general’s report will exonerate him.

“The report can’t say anything different because I didn’t do anything wrong,” Cuomo said on April 26. 

Cuomo has said he’s the victim of “cancel culture,” and he and his aides have also questioned whether James is motivated by politics, saying she might be trying to run for governor. 

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said the governor is cooperating with the interview willingly but has made it a policy not to comment on the details of the probe until it’s over. But Azzopardi said the media reports cast doubt on James' intentions.

“We have said repeatedly that the governor doesn’t want to comment on this review until he has cooperated, but the continued leaks are more evidence of the transparent political motivation of the attorney general’s review,” Azzopardi said. 

James has not said whether she will run for Cuomo’s seat. The current governor, and his elected predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, were both attorneys general first.

A Republican who is a declared candidate for governor said the public should know the parameters of Cuomo’s deposition. 

“What’s off-limits, what was agreed to, will he be under oath?” asked Rob Astorino. “The public has a right to know.” 

Astorino, a former Westchester County executive, lost to Cuomo in 2014.

The attorney general is also looking into accusations that the governor used staff to help him write and edit a memoir on the COVID-19 pandemic, for which he was paid $5.1 million.

James was asked about the probes recently and said she has not set a timetable for finishing the investigations.  

“It will conclude when it concludes,” James said on June 24. 

The questioning of Cuomo means that the probes will be likely be done sooner than later.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.