Gov. Andrew Cuomo is feeling the heat after his communications director, Rich Azzopardi tweeted earlier this month that Attorney General Letitia James’s investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against the governor could be politically motivated, according to The New York Post.
Cuomo faces “severe repercussions” from Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Lavine (D-Long Island) who told the governor in a letter that it was “difficult for me to comprehend” why his spokesperson would level such an accusation.
According to Azzopardi’s now infamous tweet, James could be pursuing the investigation due to her own aspirations to run for governor of New York saying that James “says she may run against the governor.”
Lavine said in his letter that he formally instructed Cuomo on March 15 that “neither you nor anyone associated with you” would be permitted to engage in any sort of witness intimidation or retaliation and that James was “conducting a parallel investigation” to his committee’s impeachment probe.
“It is obvious that attempts to demean the Attorney General serve as well to undermine the investigation and send profoundly negative signals to witnesses,” Lavine wrote. “It is critically important to realize that any such comment may merit severe repercussions.”
Lavine said in a prepared statement that he was “extraordinarily concerned” by Azzopardi’s “verbal attack” on James, saying it “sends an obviously intimidating message to potential witnesses.”
The July 11 tweet was in response to a report by the Post that the head of the Transport Workers Union International said he was “over” Cuomo saying,“Am I considering an alternative to Cuomo for governor? Absolutely. Definitely,” TWU President John Samuelsen said.
Within two hours of the story breaking Azzopardi tweeted that Samuelsen “is trying to undo pension reform.” He went on to say that, “We also understand he is a political supporter of Tish James and she says she may run against the governor, and he wants more benefits in his contract. Everyone gets that.”
Cuomo hasn’t held a press conference since his initial denial of allegations a the beginning of the investigation into the sexual harassment of current and former female aides began. However, Cuomo’s acting counsel, Beth Garvey came to Azzopardi’s defense on Wednesday saying that “There is a clear difference between actionable retaliation and protected speech and it is clear that the Chairman doesn’t understand the difference.”