New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo refused to give an inch as he gave up office.
The Democratic governor stood his ground as he said goodbye Monday, two weeks after announcing his reluctant resignation, with a final prerecorded message for New Yorkers.
Stepping down from office amid a flood of harassment allegations and myriad other investigations into his administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cuomo used his farewell address to once again defend himself as he refused to accept blame for his own downfall.
“I understand that there are moments of intense political pressure and media frenzy that cause a rush to judgment. But that is not right. It’s not fair or sustainable,” he said. “Facts still matter.”
Cuomo is leaving office in the wake of an independent investigation that he authorized, overseen by state Attorney General Letitia James, which found credible evidence that the concerning the governor’s harassment, and fostered a “toxic” workplace.
The Queens-born career politician who saw his national star rise during the depths of the pandemic defiantly maintained his innocence Monday, painting the probe as nothing more than a “political firecracker” intended to sabotage him.
“And it worked,” he lamented. “There was a political and media stampede. But the truth will come out in time. Of that I am confident.”
Cuomo, spared impeachment only due to his resignation, still faces a federal probe into his administration’s potentially illegal obfuscation of nursing home COVID-19 deaths and a state investigation into his $5 million book deal, inked mid-pandemic.
He could also face criminal charges as prosecutors probe the allegations outlined in the attorney general’s report. Lawmakers in the Assembly still plan on publishing a report based on their abandoned impeachment probe.
Cuomo leaves with a $50,000-a-year pension and more than $18 million in his campaign war chest, although his top aide Melissa DeRosa said he has no intention of seeking office again, NY1 first reported.
While his future plans remain unclear, the soon-to-be-former governor looked back on his time in office with rose-colored glasses.
During his 15-minute farewell, Cuomo went on to list achievements from his 2 1/2 terms in the Executive Mansion, touting infrastructure improvements and affordable housing projects and claiming his handiwork made government competent again.
“We have developed, over the last decade, a new paradigm of government in this state, a government that actually works and actually works for people,” he said. “It sounds simple, but it’s all the difference in the world.
“We cannot go backwards,” he added.
At midnight, Cuomo’s reign officially comes to a close when Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will officially be sworn in as New York’s 57th governor, making her the first woman to lead the Empire State.
Cuomo spent his final days in office updating New Yorkers about tropical storm Henri, holding two final weather-related briefings at his Manhattan office, as well as sending out his personal attorney on Friday to once again attack the credibility of his accusers.
Hochul, meanwhile, spent the weekend touring areas on Long Island that expected to face the brunt of the storm and began making administration appointments early Monday.
The incoming governor named Karen Persichilli Keogh, a former aide to Hillary Clinton and most recently the head of global philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase, as her pick for secretary to the governor, the state’s top appointed position.
Elizabeth Fine will be appointed Counsel to the Governor. Fine is executive vice president and general counsel of the Empire State Development Corporation and previously served as general counsel of the New York City Council.
Hochul, a Buffalo native, has yet to name a lieutenant governor. She has said it will likely be someone from New York City, a politically motivated move as she eyes a run for a full term in office next year.
Hochul has said repeatedly she knew nothing of the behavior outlined by investigators in James’ report, and she has vowed to boot anyone implicated in the scandal.
The probe found that in addition to Cuomo’s misconduct, his top staffers retaliated against at least one of his accusers and tried to undermine the credibility of others.
Calls for Cuomo’s resignation began back in March after a handful of accusers began sharing their allegations against him publicly.
He found himself with few allies and little political support after a decade of strong-arming his way through the halls of the Capitol in Albany. The Aug. 3 release of James’ report proved to be the final straw as state lawmakers appeared poised to make Cuomo only the state’s second governor to be impeached.
But Cuomo went out his own way, announcing his resignation on Aug. 10 but giving himself a final two weeks in office. As of Monday afternoon, Cuomo had yet to send a resignation letter to the Legislature and secretary of state, which he must do, according to the state’s Public Officers Law.
True to his combative nature, Cuomo included one final swipe at New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, his longtime rival, in his goodbye speech, telling the camera that Eric Adams, the Democratic nominee and front-runner to replace de Blasio, “will bring a new philosophy and competence to the position.”
Cuomo didn’t take any similar swings at Hochul, instead wishing her well and adding that he believes “she will step up to the challenge.”