Even with multiple investigations swirling around him, Gov. Cuomo is growing more defiant, according to sources.
“He’s not resigning. There’s been no notion of him resigning,” said one insider. “There’s no rationale to resignation. There’s no upside.
“He’s a crisis guy. He has always been that way. It’s who he is. Crisis brings out the best in him.”
While Cuomo digs in, staffers are losing faith, said a source who has been briefed on conversations within the executive office this week.
“There is a sense among staff of ‘how long are you able to buy time until the next story comes out?’ And that’s clearly what this is — a tactic to see how long you can run out the clock,” the source said.
As staffers defect, Cuomo is insulated by his closest confidants and staunchest allies, including his three daughters and leaders in the Black community — and is taking advice from the person he believes knows New York voters best: himself.
Even as he seemed to be approaching his political death knell last week, with calls from the Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer to step down, Cuomo remained energized.
“The Schumer and Gillibrand move did not impact thinking at all. The politicians and the voters are in very different places right now.” the insider said.
In the eyes of his critics, such egocentric thinking is what landed him in the hotseat.
“‘Business as usual’ is the problem, not the solution. ‘Business as usual’ is what led to Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassing Charlotte Bennett and seven other women,” said Deborah Katz, an attorney for Bennett, Cuomo’s former 25-year-old aide who said the governor prodded her with questions about her sex life inside the governor’s mansion last year and declared he would date women as young as 22.
“Gov. Cuomo can hide from questions all he wants and he can try to stack the impeachment investigation [by the state Assembly] in his favor, but the truth will come out. The Attorney General’s independent investigation will show that Andrew Cuomo has a long and unacceptable record of surrounding himself with enablers who will allow him to sexually harass young women who are trying to work in public service.”
Cuomo, meanwhile, has tried to play up his isolation as a virtue.
“Part of this is that I am not part of the political club. And you know what? I’m proud of it,” Cuomo said last Friday.
While the declaration was mocked widely by political watchers who note Cuomo is a career politician, starting with his first job working for his father, the late Gov. Mario Cuomo, strategists say there is truth to the position.
“The politicians don’t like him, and this is just a crescendo of events. He’s been able to incite the passions of both the right and left. They’ve been waiting for the right moment to eat him up and kill him,” said veteran strategist Hank Sheinkopf.
While his frenemies abound, few pols are more adept at the art of swaying voter sentiment than Cuomo, insiders observed.
“The man has been elected four times by the state of New York. He knows what people in New York want out of him. He is uniquely attuned to what they need during this crisis,” the insider explained.
A poll released Monday suggested the Cuomo’s thinking regarding the voting public appeared to hold true. Half of those polled by Siena College said the governor should not step down.
“It’s not surprising — especially when a poll comes out and says 50 percent don’t want him to resign — that he thinks ‘I can convince the voters. All I care about is the voters, not the politicians.’ That’s the message now. So he’s going to hang on until things start to turn around in the polls,” said a second source familiar with the governor’s thinking.
But by Thursday, a poll by Quinnipiac University showed 43 percent of voters believe he should resign, up from the 35 percent who said so in the Siena poll Monday.
Cuomo continued his nothing-to-see-here strategy throughout the week.
The public last heard from him on the sexual harassment allegations on March 12, and he said Wednesday he would not address them again pending the impeachment investigation.
Instead, he leaned on key voting blocs and tangible examples of progress that are easy for voters to digest — infrastructure projects and the vaccine effort, strategists and insiders explained.
He received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem on Wednesday — a photo op where reporters were barred .
“He’s really simple — it’s ‘the show must go on, and to hell with everybody else. He’s not going to give in. He’s not going to cower. He’s not going to show weakness. He’s going to go back to what he knows how to do, which is make the show go on no matter the cost,” Sheinkopf observed.
Despite the business-as-usual strategy, reports of more brutish behavior from the governor continued throughout the week.
On Friday, The New Yorker reported Cuomo once joked he would try to “mount” his former aide and first accuser Lindsey Boylan, if he were a dog.
Later Friday, a current aide came forward with new allegations of sexual harassment and a cover-up led by Cuomo to conceal another staffer’s accusations that he groped her inside the Governor’s mansion last year.
President Biden for the first time commented on the allegations Wednesday, but stopped short of calling for Cuomo’s immedate removal. He said he should resign if the accusations are proven true.
Sheinkopf said if the country’s top Dem comes out against him, it would be the final nail in Cuomo’s coffin.
“I think the Biden response could have been — could still be — very damaging.”