New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has laid out various paths to selecting the next state attorney general following the resignation of Democrat Eric Schneiderman amid allegations of abuse from four women. The allegations were revealed in a New Yorker magazine article Monday.
Cuomo, a Democrat, called the allegations deeply shocking and disturbing Tuesday morning in Tarrytown.
“I have tremendous accolades for the women who came forward,” Cuomo said. “That is the essence of this #MeToo movement and this #MeToo moment.”
And, he said:
“No one is above the law,” said Cuomo. “No one should be afraid to come forward.”
Cuomo has called for an investigation into the allegations against Schneiderman, saying there could be more than one district attorney looking into the matter given the allegations took place in different counties. The Manhattan District Attorney's Office says it is opening a criminal investigation and Long Island prosecutors say they are also investigating allegations of physical violence by Schneiderman, given some of the alleged abuse occurred in the Hamptons, in Suffolk County. Again, Cuomo.
“Now, there is a complication with the district attorney of Manhattan Cy Vance,” Cuomo said. “I had appointed the attorney general to investigate the Manhattan district attorney’s handling of a sexual harassment case against Harvey Weinstein.”
Schneiderman’s resignation letter was sent late Tuesday afternoon. Solicitor General Barbara Underwood automatically becomes acting attorney general. Cuomo had appointed her when he served as attorney general. It is up to the legislature whether to appoint an attorney general until an election.
“The law says the legislature shall. They meet in a joint legislature with the Senate and they shall appoint,” said Cuomo. “It does not specify a timeline.”
Cuomo, who faces a primary against Cynthia Nixon, would not outright say whether he preferred the legislature appoint an interim attorney general, but repeatedly noted the Democratic Convention taking place in two weeks and the elections later this year. Common Cause/NY Executive Director Susan Lerner says the Legislature should appoint a placeholder to serve as the acting attorney general — someone who will not stand for election — allowing the voters to select from a competitive field of candidates in the fall. Meantime, Cuomo says the attorney general’s office could be a very important vehicle on the chronic sexual harassment issue facing the nation.
“I think a qualified woman would be great, especially in this time,” said Cuomo.
Hudson Valley Democratic state Senator David Carlucci says there needs to be diversity, starting at the top of New York’s governing structure.
“We have so many qualified candidates so I’m looking forward to having that debate and having a female candidate for the first time in 240 years lead the office of attorney general,” Carlucci says.
“The only good news here is the solicitor general is a top quality person who will not be running for office, so she won’t be playing politics, and she’ll just be doing the job,” Cuomo said. “So I see no immediate rush because it’s not as if the attorney general’s office is rudderless in the meantime, it’s not.”
On the subject of rudders, Cuomo’s responses to reporter questions about the attorney general position came after a boat tour of both the new Mario Cuomo Bridge and what’s left of the old Tappan Zee alongside. On the latter:
“There’s a milestone that we’re going to reach today, which is we’re taking down one of the five sections of the main bridge,” Cuomo said. “It’s about 500 feet long. It’s about 4,700 tons.”
The 62-year-old Tappan Zee Bridge was officially retired in October. The second span of the $3.98 billion Mario Cuomo Bridge that connects Westchester and Rockland Counties is expected to be open by the end of the year.