A lawyer for one of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s (D) sexual harassment accusers alleged Monday that the governor’s office is interfering in the state attorney general’s independent investigation into various women’s claims against him.
In a letter to New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), the lawyer for former Cuomo aide Charlotte Bennett referenced a recent report “that the Executive Chamber is providing staffers with in-house attorneys to meet with them in advance of their investigatory interviews […] and to attend those interviews with them” and objected to the reported conduct.
“It is my understanding that these attorneys are also ‘debriefing’ staffers after their interviews with investigators,” wrote lawyer Debra Katz.
“This is highly improper and we object in the strongest possible terms to this obvious interference with what you have stated would be a ‘thorough and independent’ investigation,” Katz continued in her three-page letter.
Furthermore, Katz wrote to James that the three-term governor’s move “will have a chilling effect on potential witnesses or other accusers” who wish to participate in the investigation but who “fear job-related retaliation if they tell the investigators about the Governor’s sexual harassing behavior and misconduct of those around him.”
“We urge to issue a directive to the Governor to cease this highly improper practice,” she added.
Started earlier this month, the investigation is being carried out by outside lawyers headed by former acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon Kim and longtime employment lawyer Anne Clark.
“We believe this offer of counsel constitutes a deliberate attempt by the Governor to interfere with your office’s investigation,” Katz also wrote.
Katz also urged James to “issue a public statement” denying a report that her office had ordered the Executive Chamber to conduct a “parallel” probe into claims that he groped an unidentified female aide in the Executive Mansion late last year.
Just last week, a current aide to Cuomo, Alyssa McGrath, publicly accused the governor of attempting to cover up the alleged groping incident by asking that accuser “specifically not to tell me” about it.
MORE ON CUOMO: Cuomo: ‘I’m not going to resign’
The 25-year-old Bennett has accused Cuomo of inquiring about her sex life, such as if she had ever slept with an older man, which gave her the impression that the governor wanted to start a sexual relationship with her. Cuomo has apologized, alleging he never meant to say anything offensive and “never knew at the time I was making anyone feel uncomfortable.”
In an interview with CBS News earlier this month, Bennett didn’t accept Cuomo’s apology. “It’s not an issue of my feelings […] It’s an issue of his actions,” Bennett said.
“The fact is that he was sexually harassing me and he has not apologized for sexually harassing me,” she added.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.
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Five returned rental cars used by Biden’s Secret Service burst into flames
A bizarre situation involving rental cars used during one of President Joe Biden’s trips has social media and conspiracy theorists busy with speculation.
The cars were owned by Hertz, and had just been returned by members of the Secret Service who had been using them during President Biden’s visit, sources said.
The Ford Expedition was under a battery recall by the manufacturer and had recently had the battery switched out. pic.twitter.com/CQzI5w0k2U
— Nantucket Current (@ACKCurrent) November 28, 2022
The day after President Joe Biden left Nantucket for his Thanksgiving holiday, five Hertz rental cars hired by his Secret Service detail burst into flames in the airport parking lot.
The Nantucket Current tweeted out photos and wrote, “The cars were owned by Hertz, and had just been returned by members of the Secret Service who had been using them during President Biden’s visit, sources said.”
A fire “involving multiple rental vehicles recently used by Secret Service agents erupted early Monday morning at Nantucket Memorial Airport,” reported the Current.
According to a statement from Nantucket Memorial Airport, at 5:22 a.m. on Monday, airport staff observed an active fire through the closed circuit TV system in the rental car overflow area. Local fire and police departments responded and contained the fire.
“Something very fishy going on,” one YouTube user commented on the Nantucket Current’s video. “No freakin’ way was this a coincidence. Absolutely no way,” wrote another.
An investigation is underway. The working theory is that the fire started in a Ford Expedition, which was under a safety recall since May due to a faulty battery junction box that has been known to cause underhood fires. The recall affects 66,000 Ford Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators manufactured between December 2020 and April 2021.
“We believe these vehicle fires can be traced to a circuit board supplier that changed manufacturing locations during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic,” according to Ford’s website. “The printed circuit boards produced there are sometimes susceptible to a high-current short.”
“Of the eight fire allegations, six occurred while the vehicle was parked and off, and two occurred while driving,” says the initial March 2022 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the part of the Department of Transportation that investigates car safety issues. Interestingly, the eight vehicles were owned by multiple rental car companies at various locations.
By mid-May, the government had 16 reports of underhood fires in 2021 Expedition and Navigator vehicles. Of those, 14 were rental vehicles and 12 of the fires had occurred while the vehicle was parked with the engine off. Consequently, Ford has advised owners that these vehicles should be parked outdoors and away from buildings.
In an email to Forbes, Hertz confirmed that it was working with the local authorities on their investigation but did not confirm that the Explorer in question had been scheduled for service under the recall.
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