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New allegations arrived this week from a former aide, Lindsey Boylan, who says Cuomo kissed her without her consent, suggested a game of strip poker while on a business trip and made other inappropriate comments.

As the governor scrambled to deal with the fallout from that scandal, one of his top cabinet members was in a standoff Thursday with state lawmakers over the other: The revelation that his administration for months failed to report the deaths of thousands of nursing home patients who had been hospitalized with Covid-19.

That controversy mushroomed last week when Assemblymember Ron Kim (D-Queens) said Cuomo called him and threatened to destroy his career over his nursing home criticism, drawing attention to Cuomo’s long history of hardball tactics some describe as bullying and abusive.

Cuomo’s growing body of detractors now encompasses Republicans, progressives, good government types and women’s rights advocates, among others. To his critics, the two controversies are not unrelated.

“Sexual harassment is a form of power abuse, and when you piece it it altogether— the hidden but now public harassment and what we’ve already seen in broad daylight by Cuomo— you can put together a profile of the kind of power abuser he really is,” said Erica Vladimer, a former legislative staffer who accused her then-boss of sexual harassment and co-founded an advocacy group to address a culture of such behavior in Albany.

Unlike questions over his policy decisions, friends and foes alike have called the new attacks on Cuomo’s character self-inflicted. His decision to call and berate Kim — and Kim’s decision to air it publicly — opened a floodgate for others with similar experiences, said New York’s GOP chair Nick Langworthy, during a Thursday discussion the party hosted virtually with his counterpart in California.

“Cuomo made a very big mistake in doing this because Assemblyman Kim took the age old advice on how to handle a bully, which was that he fought back, punched back, and in doing so, inspired many others to recount their own stories of inappropriate and abusive behavior by this governor,” Langworthy said.

The allegations were enough to drive Cuomo’s Emmy-winning briefings off the air, at least for a day: The governor scrapped a virtual press conference that had been planned for Wednesday as an embattled administration and weary staff pivoted to a new sort of crisis almost exactly a year after the first Covid-19 case was found in the state.

For a governor who has been so much in the public eye over the last year, his silence in recent days has been conspicuous.

“The moment requires something other than hiding back, but he’s not there yet,” said an administration official.

Cuomo is a self-proclaimed gearhead and fix-it guy, but a sexual misconduct allegation isn’t something that can easily be shut down with a political machination or a pivot. “‘The car broke down and I’m going to get it going?’ Well, that’s not the right metaphor [for now],” the official said.

M ayor Bill de Blasio, another frequent foe, on Thursday joined calls from both Republicans and fellow Democrats for an independent probe into the sexual harassment allegations.

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“These allegations are really disturbing,” he told reporters. “We need a full and independent investigation. I want to emphasize the word ‘independent’ investigation — by some individual or entity that is not compromised, is not something that is dominated by the governor’s office, but an independent investigation, because this is just unacceptable.”

Cuomo’s poll numbers have already suffered from the nursing home scandal. His job approval rating was down to 48 percent in a Marist poll released this week. Only 36 percent of registered voters said Cuomo deserves to be re-elected to a fourth term, while 58 percent said it’s “time to elect someone else.” That survey came out before Boylan published her harassment account.

“He’s not dead yet, but he’s taken a sizable hit. I think New Yorkers are paying attention in a way they haven’t before,” said Republican consultant Jessica Proud.

“It’s hard to see the path out of this for him. He’s someone that will certainly dig his claws in, and I don’t think he will resign of his own volition,” she said. “He will essentially be a non-functioning governor.”

Any effort to take down Cuomo, however, will face its own obstacles. Despite mounting calls for an investigation into the harassment allegations, there is no clear roadmap for such a probe. Albany’s main investigatory body, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, is largely controlled by the governor.

Some have called for an investigation by state Attorney General Tish James or special prosecutor she could appoint. She, too, has been a Cuomo ally, but has recently asserted her independence: It was her investigation that first revealed the state undercounted nursing home deaths by about 50 percent. The state’s top Republican lawmakers sent a letter Wednesday requesting an investigation into the harassment claims.

It’s unclear what James might do, should she decide to engage. The office of New York’s attorney general has wide jurisdiction to weigh in on state ethics matters, but those have historically been assumed on a situational basis. A spokesperson for James’ office said they are reviewing the letter from GOP lawmakers, but did not comment further.

Advocates for anti-harassment reforms are calling for a standing referral — either from the Legislature or the executive — giving the attorney general the power to investigate, issue reports and, where necessary, prosecute cases of sexual misconduct.

That would give more clarity for who should tackle this and any other civil or criminal investigations that might arise in the future, said Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham law professor and Cuomo critic who has run for both governor and attorney general on Democratic lines.

“In Albany, sexual misconduct, silencing and retaliation has gone hand in hand with corruption,” she said. “People who are harassed in Albany repeatedly feel trapped because the places they might turn to complain are all deeply intertwined with power structures.”

“Obviously I’ve been criticizing Andrew Cuomo for a long time,” Teachout added. “But this moment is different because of the level of national exposure.”

If Cuomo follows through on his plans to run for re-election next year, no clear challenger has yet emerged.

The governor beat back primary challengers on his left in 2018 and 2014, and observers say that to have a shot next year, a rival Democrat would have to be able to make inroads among voters of color in New York City.

“The only candidates who could beat him are people who could beat him in his base,” said Democratic consultant Rebecca Katz, who worked on Cynthia Nixon’s 2018 campaign. “New York City held very strong for Cuomo. And if any progressive challenger is going to come close to beating him, they have to beat him in New York City.”

James and Williams are viewed as among the strongest potential challengers, but neither has said yet if they will run.

“I am not focused on that,” said Williams, who narrowly lost a bid for lieutenant governor against Cuomo’s No. 2, Kathy Hochul, in 2018.

Williams said the latest revelations about the governor’s tactics are “not new nor surprising.”

“They’ve just been hidden in plain sight for so long,” he told POLITICO. “It has not gotten the exposure that was definitely warranted for many, many years. And if it had, New York state might just be in better shape.”


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Queen sits alone at funeral for Prince Philip to set example

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Other royals who are in family bubbles are sitting together.

The service began with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby entering the chapel ahead of the coffin, followed by Philip’s children and three of his eight grandchildren, as a four-member choir sang “I am the resurrection and the life.”

Inside the Gothic chapel, the setting for centuries of royal weddings and funerals, the service was to be simple and somber. There will be no sermon, at Philip’s request, and no family eulogies or readings, in keeping with royal tradition. But Dean of Windsor David Conner will say the country has been enriched by Philip’s “unwavering loyalty to our queen, by his service to the nation and the Commonwealth, by his courage, fortitude and faith.”

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Philip spent almost 14 years in the Royal Navy and saw action in the Mediterranean Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific during World War II. Several elements of his funeral have a maritime theme, including the hymn “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” which is associated with seafarers and asks God: “O hear us when we cry to thee/For those in peril on the sea.”

Along with Philip’s children and grandchildren, the 30 funeral guests include other senior royals and several of his German relatives. Philip was born a prince of Greece and Denmark and, like the queen, is related to a thicket of European royal families.


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FBI says it interviewed FedEx mass shooter last year

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The shooter was identified as Brandon Scott Hole, 19, of Indianapolis, Deputy Police Chief Craig McCartt told a news conference. Investigators searched a home in Indianapolis associated with Hole and seized evidence, including desktop computers and other electronic media, McCartt said.

Hole began firing randomly at people in the parking lot of the FedEx facility late Thursday, killing four, before entering the building, fatally shooting four more people and then turning the gun on himself, McCartt said. He said he did not know if Hole owned the gun legally.

“There was no confrontation with anyone that was there,” he said. “There was no disturbance, there was no argument. He just appeared to randomly start shooting.”

McCartt said the slayings took place in a matter of minutes, and that there were at least 100 people in the facility at the time. Many were changing shifts or were on their dinner break, he said. Several people were wounded, including five who were taken to the hospital.

“You deserved so much better than this,” a man who identified himself as the grandson of Johal tweeted Friday evening. Johal had planned to work a double shift Thursday so she could take Friday off, according to the grandson, who would not give his full name but identifies himself as “Komal” on his Twitter page. Johal later decided to grab her check and go home, and still had the check in her hand when police found her, Komal said.

“(What) a harsh and cruel world we live in,” he added.

Smith, the youngest of the victims, was last in contact with her family shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday, family members said in social media posts late Friday. Dominique Troutman, Smith’s sister, waited hours at the Holiday Inn for an update on her sister. “Words can’t even explain how I feel. … I’m so hurt,” Troutman said in a Facebook post Friday night.

Weisert had been working as a bag handler at FedEx for four years, his wife, Carol, told WISH-TV. The couple was married nearly 50 years.

President Joe Biden said he had been briefed on the shooting and called gun violence “an epidemic” in the U.S.

“Too many Americans are dying every single day from gun violence. It stains our character and pierces the very soul of our nation,” he said in a statement. Later, he tweeted, “We can, and must, do more to reduce gun violence and save lives.”

A FedEx employee said he was working inside the building Thursday night when he heard several gunshots in rapid succession.

“I see a man come out with a rifle in his hand and he starts firing and he starts yelling stuff that I could not understand,” Levi Miller told WTHR-TV. “What I ended up doing was ducking down to make sure he did not see me because I thought he would see me and he would shoot me.”

Paul Keenan, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis field office, said Friday that agents questioned Hole last year after his mother called police to say that her son might commit “suicide by cop.” He said the FBI was called after items were found in Hole’s bedroom but he did not elaborate on what they were. He said agents found no evidence of a crime and that they did not identify Hole as espousing a racially motivated ideology. A police report obtained by The Associated Press shows that officers seized a pump-action shotgun from Hole’s home after responding to the mother’s call. Keenan said the gun was never returned.

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McCartt said Hole was a former employee of FedEx and last worked for the company in 2020. The deputy police chief said he did not know why Hole left the job or if he had ties to the workers in the facility. He said police have not yet uncovered a motive for the shooting.

Police Chief Randal Taylor noted that a “significant” number of employees at the FedEx facility are members of the Sikh community, and the Sikh Coalition later issued a statement saying it was “sad to confirm” that at least four of those killed were community members.

The coalition, which identifies itself as the largest Sikh civil rights organization in the U.S., said in the statement that it expected authorities to “conduct a full investigation — including the possibility of bias as a factor.”

Varun Nikore, executive director of the AAPI Victory Alliance, a national advocacy group for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said in a statement that the shootings marked “yet another senseless massacre that has become a daily occurrence in this country.”

Nikore remarked that gun violence in the U.S. “is reflective of all of the spineless politicians who are beholden to the gun lobby.”

FedEx Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Frederick Smith called the shooting a “senseless act of violence.”

“This is a devastating day, and words are hard to describe the emotions we all feel,” he wrote in an email to employees.

The killings marked the latest in a string of recent mass shootings across the country and the third mass shooting this year in Indianapolis. Five people, including a pregnant woman, were shot and killed in the city in January, and a man was accused of killing three adults and a child before abducting his daughter during at argument at a home in March. In other states last month, eight people were fatally shot at massage businesses in the Atlanta area, and 10 died in gunfire at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said the community must guard against resignation and “the assumption that this is simply how it must be and we might as well get used to it.”


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Gaetz ex-girlfriend feared alleged sex-trafficking victim taped call for feds

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Gaetz’s former girlfriend has played a bit role in the unfolding public drama — she is the woman who sent the lawmaker a nude video of her performing a hula hoop dance that he showed to other members of Congress.

But two of her friends, who declined to be identified publicly because of the sensational nature of the case, say she now suspects she was being set up when the alleged victim and another woman involved in the case called her to discuss the lawmaker in what she fears might have been a recorded conference call. The call took place sometime after Greenberg was indicted for the sex crime in August.

The friends did not provide details about exactly what was discussed, but one recounted that Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend said she was opposed to talking to authorities and is now worried that prosecutors might try to charge her with obstructing justice in order to get to Gaetz.

Tim Jansen, an attorney for Gaetz’s former girlfriend, declined to comment about his client. Greenberg’s lawyer, Fritz Scheller, also declined to talk. Gaetz has strongly denied allegations he engaged in any sex crimes.

The three women on the call were all present on a September 2018 trip to the Bahamas that authorities think may shed light on the allegations against Gaetz. Also present on that trip: Gaetz and two other Florida Republican political players, former Orlando-area aviation authority member and Gov. Ron DeSantis fundraiser Jason Pirozzolo and former state Rep. Halsey Beshears.

POLITICO is withholding the names of the women who went to the Bahamas, including his ex-girlfriend, because of the sensitive nature of the case and the allegations that while there, some of the women engaged in prostitution.

As the investigation intensified this winter, Beshears abruptly resigned in January as Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary — a post that made him the state’s top business regulator — noting he had contracted Covid-19. About that time, federal authorities seized the iPhones of Gaetz and his former girlfriend.

Federal authorities are examining the Bahamas trip to see if it violated the Mann Act, which forbids transporting people across state lines to engage in prostitution. One woman on the trip told POLITICO that no one engaged in prostitution.

The alleged victim in the sex-trafficking case had turned 18 almost nine months before the Bahamas trip. But Gaetz has acknowledged he’s the subject of a federal investigation into whether he had improper involvement with her as a 17-year-old.

A source familiar with the investigation wouldn’t say whether the alleged victim was cooperating with authorities. But when asked if she has been talking for months with the federal government, the source said “100 percent.”

While the alleged sex-trafficking victim is key to the case against Greenberg and the allegations against Gaetz, the lawmaker’s ex-girlfriend could play a pivotal role in the investigation of the trip, as well as other related controversies.

Gaetz was criticized for allegedly showing the hula hoop video to congressional colleagues, and he was also accused of engaging in revenge porn against his former girlfriend. But two of her friends say the woman, in her early 20s, did not object to him showing it to friends — provided he didn’t send it to others or post it on social media — because she was proud of her appearance and performance.

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“This is the best I will ever look in my life,” a friend who saw the video recalled her saying. “That’s how she is. It’s not revenge porn.”

The former girlfriend first met Gaetz while she attended college in the Orlando area in 2017. Greenberg, who established contact with her on the SeekingArrangement website — a dating website that connects women with so-called sugar daddies — made the connection. Soon after, she began dating Gaetz, although the relationship was not exclusive, friends said.

Gaetz later got her a job interning in the office of another Republican member of Congress, but that member let her go when it was discovered she was a Democrat, according to Democratic Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando, who promptly hired her when Gaetz told him of the matter.

Soto, who is not involved in the investigation, would not name the Republican lawmaker or comment about the case. But he said the woman was a hard worker in his office and that he had no complaints about her, other than some inquiries about whether Gaetz’s relationship with the intern was inappropriate.

“We wanted to protect her privacy from the media. She was just an intern,” Soto said. “I’ll also say she was fired by a Republican for being a Democrat. I found it offensive that she was fired for her political beliefs.”

Gaetz and the ex-girlfriend continued to date until well after the Bahamas trip in 2018. Friends said the two remained on good terms, although she was a source of friction between the lawmaker and Beshears. Beshears had apparently been taking her out on dates in Tallahassee, including a trip to the Florida State University president’s skybox at Doak Campbell Stadium, mutual friends said.

At the time, Beshears had recently been left by another girlfriend after she learned about the Bahamas trip. Beshears, then a state legislator, had flown several of the women on his private plane, which was briefly detained by U.S. Customs upon its return to Florida for questioning about the ages of several of the young women on the trip.

“Here was Halsey with three young women who could have been his daughters, and a Customs agent was like, ‘Whoa, what’s going on here?‘” said a source who was familiar with the incident.

Speaking to the partying group and the drama surrounding them, a different mutual friend said: “Tallahassee is like high school. But no one ever graduates.”


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