Governor Andrew Cuomo was tiring everyone. He was unchallenged, he raged at councilors over the weekend and, with few allies to defend him publicly after an incriminating report by the state attorney general on allegations of sexual harassment, he feared voters have an unshakeable impression, according to people. with direct knowledge of their conversations.
Everyone was talking about 11 women, he complained privately, but he felt only some of the accusations were really harmful in isolation. And against these he was ready to fight.
Regardless of the price the reporting cost some of his relatives, including his brother, Chris Cuomo, the CNN presenter whose family view of the allegations sparked outrage, and his primary assistant, Melissa DeRosa, who was considering to resign for weeks. . Never mind that a new revelation from the investigation – that Cuomo harassed a patroller on his security apparatus – surprised even those who knew him best.
The governor’s circle has always been small, almost claustrophobic. But increasingly, on the issue of resigning or fighting, Cuomo was becoming a one-man coalition. Sometimes over the past few days he’s actually ‘gone green’ with his advisers — telling them he wanted to stay and believed he should have that right, then waiting to be told. that he was right.
Most had given up on trying to change his mind, even though they didn’t encourage him to hurry. But on Sunday (8) DeRosa – long the most loyal protector of Cuomo’s public image, the assistant accused in the report of plotting with others to retaliate against one of his victims – said that she could no longer stand by his side. was a final sign to the governor that there was no way out.
It took another day and a series of devastating setbacks for the message to get: the Monday morning broadcast of an interview with Brittany Commisso, a governor’s office adviser who made the most serious harassment allegations: a statement from Carl Heastie, Speaker of the Assembly, that he would not make any deal with Cuomo to postpone the impeachment process; a growing chorus of former confidants such as Cuomo’s chosen chancellor of the state university system, Jim Malatras, expressing their indignation at the “disgusting acts described in the report.”
The Tuesday morning show – a governor relinquishing the power he amassed in 40 years of work, a tireless, now tired man – was both shocking and predictable to those close to him. It was the culmination of a few frantic, at times contradictory, days in which Cuomo seemed to oscillate between defiant and defeated, ready to fight but ultimately resigned to the fact that his formidable political army had disbanded.
This account is based on interviews with more than a dozen advisers, assistants, and others with first-hand knowledge of his last random efforts to stay on and the final decision to leave. Almost all of them have made a point of remaining anonymous when discussing sensitive matters.
For months Cuomo had been politically isolated, his informal cabinet shrinking as most New York lawmakers, inside and outside the capital, Albany, urged him to step down. While no one has suggested that Cuomo enjoyed this crisis, especially after being celebrated in the early months of Covid last year, some connoisseurs have said he seemed to show some reckless emotion when he measured political odds. long term – and imagined a rare breed capable of overcoming them.
But Cuomo was also fully aware of his precarious situation. When the report came out on Aug. 3, he and his aides weren’t prepared – they didn’t expect it to be another two weeks or so, according to four people familiar with Cuomo’s conversations.
By the end of Wednesday (4), the governor had concluded he should resign, one person said. Thursday morning, he started the day with the intention of making the announcement on Friday. But before lunch, according to this person, the governor seems to have changed his mind.
The exact reason for the move was unclear, and some advisers spoke on Thursday of preparing and airing a series of TV commercials with people on the streets who believed he was doing a great job, according to two people briefed on the conversations. The aim was to improve the polls, hoping to influence members of the Assembly to vote against impeachment. The idea of advertising was finally ruled out.
On Sunday (8), before DeRosa’s resignation, Cuomo insisted to confidants he was not going anywhere. The claims by Lindsey Boylan, the first aide to publicly accuse the governor of harassment, particularly infuriated Cuomo and his aides. He hoped the report would reflect what he considered consensual flirtations, people who spoke to him said, or at the very least conclude that some of the facts were “personal opinions.” Many advisers disagreed with any benevolent assessment. Chris Cuomo was among those who concluded his brother should step down – and he told her so, according to people directly familiar with the matter.
But advisers say the scale of the reputation explosion – affecting not only the governor but increasingly those most likely to defend or help him, like his brother, DeRosa and other elders advisers – seems to have played a role in deciding that there was no way forward. “When the only friend you have is the one looking at you in the mirror, you’re screwed,” an aide recently said.
Lawmakers discussed impeachment at the state capital complex on Monday, and Cuomo was drafting resignation statements at the executive residence. He was joined by DeRosa, who scheduled his official resignation to match Cuomo’s in two weeks, and another assistant, Stephanie Benton.
But most of the text was his, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter, reflecting his mistaken feelings about it: he would tell New Yorkers he loved them, that he would leave them and that the charges. held against him, despite his decision on Tuesday, were not to be fully believed.
Tuesday morning, when few knew exactly what was going to happen in a matter of hours, something seemed to be brewing in Cuomo’s office in midtown Manhattan. The information zone on the 38th floor – the space where, for more than a decade, he gave proud interviews about his executive exploits – has been laid out for public statements. At least one staff member was advised at 8 a.m. to wear a suit to work, usually a sure sign that Cuomo would be visiting.
By 12:00 p.m., Cuomo was seated at the press communications table, flanked by an American flag and a New York State flag. A senior official had encouraged staff members to stay with the governor so that he did not go to an empty room. Some were crying as they sat in chairs usually reserved for the press. Cuomo took a deep breath, located the camera, and looked straight ahead.
“Come on,” he said. He was ready.
Matt Flegenheimer, Maggie Haberman, William K. Rashbaum and Danny Hakim