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Lawmakers call for Gov. Cuomo’s removal following aide’s reported nursing home data confession

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New York lawmakers are calling for gov. Andrew Cuomo’s impeachment after new information was released Thursday night on how his administration concealed Covid-19 death tolls.

Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, privately apologized to Democratic lawmakers in a virtual meeting on Wednesday for withholding the state’s nursing-home death toll from COVID-19. She told lawmakers that the administration “froze” out of fear that the data would “be used against us” by federal prosecutors under the Trump administration, The New York Post reported Thursday.

According to audio footage The Post obtained of the meeting, DeRosa admitted the Cuomo administration had declined requests for a full count of nursing home deaths in August because “right around the same time, [then-President Donald Trump] turns this into a giant political football.”

“He starts tweeting that we killed everyone in nursing homes,” DeRosa said. “He starts going after [New Jersey Gov. Phil] Murphy, starts going after [California Gov. Gavin] Newsom, starts going after [Michigan Gov.] Gretchen Whitmer.”

In addition to attacking Cuomo’s fellow Democratic governors, DeRosa said, Trump “directs the Department of Justice to do an investigation into us.”

“And basically, we froze,” she told the lawmakers on the call.

“We were in a position where we weren’t sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice, or what we give to you guys, what we start saying, was going to be used against us while we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation.”

DeRosa then attempted to make amends with the fellow democrat lawmakers for putting them in this situation.

“So we do apologize,” she said. “I do understand the position that you were put in. I know that it is not fair. It was not our intention to put you in that political position with the Republicans.”

According to the latest reports, nearly 15,000 New Yorkers who were in long-term care facilities died from Covid-19. The death toll number increased from about 9,000 to almost 15,000—making clear that the pandemic’s toll on long-term care residents was much worse than the Cuomo administration previously portrayed it to be.

State Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt will hold a press conference Friday morning to push for further investigation into the situation.

“If the Governor is involved, he should be immediately removed from office,” Ortt said.

State GOP Chair Nick Langworthy is calling for Cuomo’s immediate impeachment.

“The second most powerful person in state government and top aide to Gov. Cuomo admitted on video to the premeditated and willful violation of state laws and what clearly amounts to federal obstruction of justice,” Langworthy said. “Andrew Cuomo has abused his power and destroyed the trust placed in the office of governor. Prosecution and impeachment discussions must begin right away.”

Sen. Rand Paul tweeted Friday morning that “If Democrats were honest about using impeachment to remove corrupt officials, they need look no further than Cuomo.”

Follow Annaliese Levy on Twitter @AnnalieseLevy

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Cuomo says he’ll ‘fully cooperate’ with NY AG’s review of sexual harassment claims

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Wednesday that he will “fully cooperate” with the state attorney general’s independent review into sexual harassment allegations made against the currently scandal-ridden governor, saying, “I fully support a woman’s right to come forward.”

Last Wednesday, Lindsey Boylan, who served in his administration for over three years, accused Cuomo of suggesting to her on a 2017 flight that they play strip poker, inappropriate touching, and kissing her on the lips without her consent.

RELATED: ‘Let’s play strip poker’: Fmr. Cuomo aide accuses NY governor of sexual harassment

Following Boylan’s accusations, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett alleged the governor indicated interest in having an affair with her while she was serving in his administration as a health policy adviser. In a Saturday New York Times report, Bennett told the newspaper that Cuomo asked her if she had “ever been with an older man,” adding that “age doesn’t matter” in relationships.

At Wednesday’s press briefing, the Empire State governor addressed the accusations leveled against him over the past seven days by three women and New York Attorney General Letitia James’ (D) independent review into those claims, which she announced on Monday was formally proceeding.

RELATED: De Blasio ‘sickened’ by Cuomo sexual harassment claims

“As you probably know, the attorney general is doing an independent review, and I will fully cooperate with that review,” Cuomo said at the beginning of his statement. “Now, the lawyers say I shouldn’t say anything when you have a pending review until that review is over. I understand that, I’m a lawyer, too. But, I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this.”

“First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward,” the governor began. “And I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly I am embarrassed by it, and that’s not easy to say. But that’s the truth.”

This echoes what Cuomo said in a Sunday statement about the allegations, in which he stated he “may have been insensitive” during his tenure but charged his accusers of misinterpreting his actions, saying, “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation… I am truly sorry about that.”

RELATED: Cuomo responds to sexual harassment claims, saying he ‘may have been insensitive’

During his Wednesday remarks, Cuomo iterated “I never touched anyone inappropriately,” repeated that sentence, then said “I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable” and repeated that one too.

“And I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do,” he continued. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion. Get the facts, please, before forming an opinion.”

“I also want you to know that I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me as well as other people, and I’ve learned an important lesson,” the governor said at the end of his statement. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone, I never intended it, and I will be the better for this experience.”

Amid Boylan and Bennett’s allegations, another report of Cuomo sexually harassing a woman has cropped up. On Monday, a woman named Anna Ruch accused the governor of placing his hands on her cheeks—without her consent—at a 2019 wedding reception and asking if he could kiss her. A photograph of the two together at the event has also been circulating on social media.

RELATED: ‘Eat the whole sausage: Gov. Cuomo in hot water for resurfaced video

Asked at Wednesday’s briefing about the pictures that have resurfaced of him being touchy with people, particularly that of him and Ruch, the governor claimed that it is his way of greeting people.

“I understand the opinion of—and feelings of—Ms. Ruch,” Cuomo said. “You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people—women, children, men, etc. You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people. […] It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”

Moreover, the governor said that his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, would do the same thing.

“By the way, it was my father’s way of greeting people,” Cuomo said, explaining, “You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable, you want to reach out to them.”

He also mentioned that he kisses and hugs legislators and noted that at an event in Queens the other day he hugged pastors and state assembly members.

Furthermore, the governor said that his intent “doesn’t matter,” saying, “What it matters is if anybody was offended by it.”

“But if they were offended by it, then it was wrong,” he added, going on to say that if they were offended or hurt by it, he apologizes.

MORE ON CUOMO: NY dem says state legislature is ‘inching toward’ Cuomo impeachment probe

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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