Cuomo and James
© NY Governor's Office
Andrew Cuomo and Letitia James in 2018
If irony were a psychoactive compound, the amount produced by Andrew Cuomo's departure from office last August would've been enough to cause a rash of fatal overdoses. In the span of just a few months, Cuomo went from being one of the country's most formidable and even fearsome elected officials, to having the prefix "disgraced" obligatorily attached to his "former governor" job title. This after being exposed, purportedly, as a serial sexual predator. Sure — there have been dramatic falls from grace before. But this one was on some other level.

Cuomo of course already commanded a large national profile before 2020, but thanks to a wave of corporate media adulation during the height of COVID, he was transformed into a newfound "national hero" and noble foil to Donald Trump — with murmurs that he'd even launch a late bid for president. "Andrew Cuomo may be the single most popular politician in America right now," one representative CNN headline blared.

Then, in a brutal Shakespearean twist of fate, a slew of curiously choreographed "accusations" emerged — and in the blink of an eye, many of those same media operators turned on him like it was nothing.

The state Attorney General, Letitia James, mobilized into action, and received authorization from Cuomo to launch an investigation with the stipulation that she would appoint independent attorneys to run it, in light of her enormous conflict of interest: she planned to run for Governor herself. A media establishment which had just got done exalting Cuomo as the modern-day Winston Churchill of New York decided to abstain from conducting basic journalistic scrutiny of these circumstances, and instead became witless PR agents for both the supposed "victims" and James, who touted herself as the victims' fearless champion. Which would certainly be a useful selling point for her upcoming campaign. Almost immediately after James published the findings, Cuomo's political support evaporated, impeachment proceedings were initiated, a chorus of condemnations erupted, and he was kicked unceremoniously out the door.

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but to my knowledge I was the only person with any tangential connection to The Media who even attempted any kind of skeptical inquiry into these machinations against Cuomo. Not because I had any pre-existing affinity for him — quite the opposite, in fact — but because it was obvious from the get-go that the anti-Cuomo putsch was full of holes, predicated on the worst kind of emotional blackmail tactics, and spearheaded by people with manifestly dubious motives. I intentionally use "putsch" to describe the machinations, only half jokingly, because it's a term that appropriately captures the sordid essence of this concerted plot to achieve a desired political outcome — Cuomo's ouster — which could not have been achieved by ordinary electoral means.

The basic reality is that Cuomo almost certainly would never have been defeated in a New York Democratic gubernatorial primary, and his "progressive" antagonists within the Party (such as James) would've been stuck with him for as long as he cared to stay in office. Past attempts by "progressive" insurgents to dislodge him in 2014 and 2018 failed miserably, despite much hype by Cuomo-hostile online media organs in NYC. This very week, in fact — months after Cuomo's supposed banishment into permanent disgrace — a poll showed him substantially leading in gubernatorial preference among voters in the Bronx, were he to run again. Which, incredibly enough, is a distinct possibility. New York does not have gubernatorial term limits, and if the putsch hadn't been executed this year, he likely could have remained in power for several more terms without much hindrance, particularly given the fecklessness of the state GOP. So the increasingly assertive "progressive" wing of the New York Democratic Party — long festering with resentment against Cuomo, who by early 2021 had been in power for over a decade — needed some other vehicle by which to remove him. And they settled on the most reliable tool they have in their arsenal to settle internal Democratic Party disputes: a manufactured #MeToo-style PR offensive.

Yes, Cuomo had been Governor for so long because he too frequently made use of brazen and cynical political tactics — take a look at the farcical Women's Equality Party he founded — but regardless, Cuomo had been duly elected three times by overwhelming margins when the putsch got underway. To oust Cuomo, especially using sleazy extra-legal methods, was ultimately to negate the electorate's overwhelmingly-stated preference. (He won re-election in 2018 by more than 23%.) Impeachment is a recourse made available by the New York Constitution, yes, but it's such a rare maneuver — no NY Governor had been impeached since 1913 — that you'd think it would be reserved for instances of truly extreme impropriety, and be accompanied by vigorous press scrutiny of the allegations at hand. Such scrutiny did not happen. Among the egregious impeachment-worthy offenses that Cuomo supposedly committed was using the term "Mingle Mamas." Really.

I'm not suggesting there was some grand conspiracy hatched in a smoke-filled room to remove Cuomo, or that he didn't stupidly expose himself to problems by having intimate conversations with young, activist-inclined female underlings who never should've been allowed within 50 yards of him without a lawyer and a priest present. But what did happen was almost worse than a conspiracy: a confluence of laziness (the media); opportunism (Cuomo's political adversaries); and an overlaying addiction to pompous moral grandstanding (everybody), with some scattered coordination thrown in for maximum impact. The ordeal showed that such tactics could be astoundingly effective, even against someone as seemingly invincible as Cuomo, largely because the media — left, right, and center — will happily discard its critical faculties when the political circumstances call for it.

No self-respecting leftist journo was going to mount a "defense" of Cuomo, for one thing, after years of mutual fear and loathing. Nor would most right-wing journalists, many of whom were just delighted that their longtime nemesis was being toppled. And the same goes, crucially, for traditionally "establishment" media organs such as the New York Times — which increasingly takes its cues from the activist Left anyway. It goes without saying that the New York Times would never dream of "attacking victims," which nowadays also includes "conducting basic journalistic inquiry into the veracity of claims calculatedly presented by an aspiring governor, Letitia James."

And so, bizarrely, the task was left to me — a guy with a Substack. Just a bit of digging uncovered a piece of information which really should have torpedoed the entire putsch, but of course was ignored by the media, since it was not helpful for any of their preordained narratives. As I reported, it turned out a key "victim," Charlotte Bennett — who was arguably the person most responsible for setting into motion the decisive chain of events which led to Cuomo's ouster — had a rather noteworthy history. Just a few years before she made headlines by accusing Cuomo of "grooming" her as a 25-year-old political operative — and by her own admission, coordinated with other "victims" of Cuomo to keep the PR momentum going - — she'd been involved in a matter which, shall we say, cast a bit of doubt on her credibility. Bennett figured prominently in litigation against her alma mater, Hamilton College, because she was documented as having coordinated another phony sexual accusation campaign. This one against a fellow student, with the aim of getting him "ousted" from the campus. She succeeded in facilitating this ouster, but was later compelled to withdraw her accusation when evidence emerged showing it was a fabrication. In sum — and she's never disputed this, despite repeated requests from me for comment — the lawsuit says Bennett fabricated an allegation against a male student and then coordinated a PR initiative with other "victims" to get that student expelled from the college. Almost to a tee, it was the exact formula she later employed with great success against a guileless Cuomo.

Unbelievably, even Cuomo's own lawyers had been unaware of this information until I published it — and I'd guess they make a heck of a lot more money than me. After I published that story and some of Cuomo's staff circulated it, the New York press corps exploded with rage and charged (with zero evidence) that I was the shameful recipient of an "oppo dump" from the Cuomo operation. Unfortunately for them, I didn't get the information from Cuomo or anyone connected to him; ironically, the operation had no idea it even existed. Eventually the Bennett revelation was included in a letter by Cuomo lawyer Rita Glavin to the Judiciary Committee of the New York State Assembly, which continues to investigate Cuomo. But by then it was far too late: Cuomo had already been sent off into exile.

The Bennett fiasco was just one aspect of many that made this whole ordeal outlandishly suspect. I contend that the facilitators of the putsch will eventually come to feel embarrassed for what they participated in — or at least, they should come to feel deep embarrassment if they still maintain any fidelity to outdated, quaint concepts like "facts" and "reality." Many journalists care little for those concepts, I realize. But there have to be at least a few who'd prefer not to live in a dream world where the "ends justify the means" is always the paramount moral principle, even if "the means" are transparently sleazy and damaging to the body politic.

Well, wouldn't you know it, but the chickens are coming home to roost a bit earlier than some might have anticipated. That is due to the ongoing seedy machinations of Letitia James, the NY Attorney General and chief putsch orchestrator, who continues to wield the law enforcement powers of the state to advance her own personal electoral ambitions with startling capriciousness.

On the evening of October 27, word began to trickle out that James would be announcing a run for Governor in 2022. This was no surprise: as the final stage of the Cuomo ouster was being executed this past summer, James somehow made time to tour around the Hamptons doing $5,000/plate fundraisers — in obvious preparation for a gubernatorial campaign.
Letitia James invite
Then, less than 24 hours later, came the bombshell leak: "forcible touching" charges had been filed against Cuomo in Albany City Court. But there was a catch, just like so many other catches in this ordeal. The Albany County District Attorney — whose office would be the very entity prosecuting Cuomo, in theory — effectively repudiated the charges, disclaiming any knowledge that they'd been filed. An extremely unusual course of events, to say the least.

So, not only had James neutralized her chief obstacle to becoming Governor, Cuomo, she also appeared to time her campaign announcement to coincide with news of a criminal complaint against him being surreptitiously filed and leaked. How could she have possibly known about this confidential information in advance? Great question. Despite her previous assurance that the Attorney General's office would stay out of any Cuomo-related investigation for conflict of interest reasons, the complaint cites an interview conducted by the First Deputy Attorney General, Jennifer Levy, as providing part of the evidentiary basis for the charge. Levy was first installed by James upon her election in 2018 as a "Chief Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice." And there Levy apparently is, conducting interviews with one of Cuomo's purported victims, Brittany Commisso — totally contrary to the stipulation of independence that underpinned James' entire investigation from the outset.
check list
James' past assurances that her office would have no direct investigatory role in the matter given her obvious conflict of interest (that she planned to run for Governor) were thus bogus. Why would her First Deputy Attorney General have such intimate involvement in the flagship allegation in this case, the only one wherein a straightforward sexual misconduct was alleged? (Commisso claimed Cuomo groped her under her blouse, while other "victims" alleged that he gave clumsily executed hugs at public events and such.)

The criminal complaint was attested to by an Albany County Sheriff's Office investigator on October 25, word of James announcing her run was leaked on October 27, the complaint was filed in court and leaked within minutes on October 28 — causing James to release a statement proclaiming "validation" — and on October 29, James officially announced her run for governor. What an amazing sequence of coincidences.

Of course, in order to definitively establish that illicit political coordination took place between the Albany County Sheriff's Office and the New York Attorney General, it would have to be proven that someone from the Sheriff's office liaised with someone from Letitia James' office during the three-day window between the "signing" of the complaint and its leak. I don't currently have that evidence, and the Sheriff of Albany County, Craig Apple, has not responded to my repeated requests for comment. Kim DeSantis, whose title is "Confidential Secretary" for Sheriff Apple, told me: "The Sheriff is not doing any media at the current time... He said all he has to say at this point."

Apple may have good reason to clam up. In August, he held a press conference announcing the investigation into allegations against Cuomo by a former aide, Commisso. In addition to preemptively declaring Commisso a "victim" and commending her bravery — thereby prejudicing the investigation from the outset — Apple was asked whether it would be necessary to coordinate with the District Attorney, David Soares, in order to proceed with charges against Cuomo: "I would hope that we're in agreement with the District Attorney," Apple said. "Listen, if you don't have the backing of your District Attorney, it's relatively moot to move forward."

And yet, his office has now "moved forward" in a manner which he previously said would "moot" the entire process. Odd, wouldn't you say?

So unusual was the process by which this complaint was publicized that, according to New York criminal defense lawyer and commentator Scott Greenfield, Cuomo is not even required to show up in Albany City Court on the date specified by the complaint (November 17.) Which would be no problem at all, if the release of the complaint was designed primarily for media consumption. Greenfield told me that, according to state law, because the misdemeanor complaint was issued in Albany County, Cuomo would have to be physically present in Albany County (or an adjoining county) in order to be served with the summons. And "without proper service, the summons would be ineffective," Greenfield said. Cuomo could choose on his own volition to accept service of the summons, Greenfield added, but absent that, he is not required to appear in court.

At the very least, this sure gives the impression of something extraordinarily and perhaps unprecedentedly fishy going on. And if Letitia James has no qualms about giving that impression, it suggests she's perfectly happy to appear as if she's wielding law enforcement powers expressly to further her own electoral ambitions, which is among most nefarious characteristics that a public official can possess. James already did this when she stood before TV cameras last August and decreed that Cuomo had committed multiple violations of the law, while also disclaiming any attendant obligation to prove those allegations in court — an extraordinary abridgement of a foundational tenet of due process. This was also ignored by oblivious journalists.

The media's policy of official credulousness toward any and all "victims" in effect doubled as a policy of official credulousness toward Letitia James — a politician, after all — whose gubernatorial announcement and apparent strategic leaking should at minimum cast the whole Cuomo investigation in an entirely new light. Were she to win in 2022, James would become the first Black Woman governor not just of New York but any state. This achievement would surely vault her into a position of huge national renown, and very possibly set the stage for an eventual presidential run. In light of all this, might it not have been prudent to treat her whole orchestrated Cuomo takedown with a bit more skepticism, rather than just parroting her PR — supposedly in the name of honoring "victims"?

When the complaint against Cuomo was leaked, it appeared to take everyone by surprise: the District Attorney, Sheriff Apple (who claimed not to have sanctioned the filing), Cuomo's legal team, and even the purported victim, Commisso. And yet there was Letitia James, all ready to go with a triumphalist statement proclaiming that the complaint had served to "validate the findings" of her investigative Report from over the summer.

Which is doubly odd, because if anything the complaint invalidated a key component of the Report regarding Commisso, since the Report stated as incontrovertible fact that Cuomo committed his groping infraction against Commisso in the Governor's Mansion on November 16, 2020. But that date has evolved several times, and is now asserted as December 7, 2020, a few days before the first "victim" — activist and then-candidate for Manhattan Borough President, Lindsey Boylan — rattled off her first vague accusation against Cuomo on Twitter. (UPDATE: Boylan first tweeted even more general accusations about a "toxic team environment" on December 5, 2020 — so two days BEFORE Commisso's latest date, meaning Cuomo would've had to decide to grope Commisso 48 hours after he'd been informed that Boylan's charges were floating around the internet.) There is no independent corroboration cited for the allegation by Commisso, which Cuomo maintains is an outright fabrication.

After the complaint was leaked, Commisso's attorney Brian D. Premo released a statement on her behalf expressing what comes across distinctly like a lawyerly cry of panic. There had been an "understanding," Preto said, that "only after completion of the investigation" the Sheriff's Department would confer with Commisso and "allow her to make an informed decision as to whether she would proceed as a victim in the case." Previously, Commisso had indicated that she was merely interested in bringing a civil action against Cuomo in relation to a dispute over compensation.

Despite James' contention last August that the purpose of her investigation was to demonstrate why the public should "believe women," this latest twist suggests that sometimes the wishes of the "woman" at issue can be overridden. Perhaps when political circumstances call for it. Which would certainly add another layer of irony to the saga.

Even if you're thrilled that Andrew Cuomo was kicked out of office — maybe because you for some reason much prefer current governor Kathy Hochul, or because you're just a sucker for a nice bit of schadenfreudeyou should still be extremely alarmed by the media's complacency on this story for about 100 different reasons. One of which is that their malfeasance has turbo-charged the electoral ascendance of Letitia James, a person who has demonstrated that she is perfectly happy — at the very least — to give the impression that she is using her office's law enforcement powers for nakedly self-interested political ends. This is a person who stands a very good chance of being venerated in the near future as a historic figure, with inevitable calls for her to mount a "history-making" run for president. Should she do so, this maneuver will be among her signature achievements — the disturbing reality of which will have been obscured, because the media and political class happened to be fed up with Andrew Cuomo. Don't say I didn't warn you!

UPDATE 11/5/21:

After publication of this article, the Albany County District Attorney, David Soares, released a letter declaring the criminal complaint against Cuomo "potentially defective," and also that it omitted "exculpatory" evidence. Or in other words, to quote Scott Greenfield again: "What Soares appears to be publicly signaling is that the case against Cuomo stinks."