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Debate rages over how to handle scrutiny of sexual harassment charges against Cuomo

The governor's legal aide and the New York State attorney general weighed in on how they felt the investigation should proceed; state lawmakers continue to react.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Throughout Sunday there was a flurry of emails from the Governor's Office, from the New York State Attorney General, and from lawmakers, all related to the unfolding scandal.

In that back-and-forth with statements from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his staffers, including his attorney/adviser and Lt. Gov. Hochul on Saturday, the word "review" is specifically used.

The word actually changed to "investigation" when there was a statement from the attorney general, Letitia James, and various lawmakers.

Indeed, James confirmed the governor would formally make a referral of this situation to her office, and she will be hiring a law firm and deputizing its attorneys to handle again an independent investigation.

Lawmakers all seem to agree with that course of action that Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes told 2 On Your Side.

"Whether the governor and his staff are trying to figure out ways to get around it or not, the attorney general is sworn to serve as the people's attorney for the State of New York. And she has to do this," Peoples-Stokes said.

"She's already proven that she will because she recently did that as it relates to the nursing home scandal."

Another Buffalo Democrat, State Senator Tim Kennedy, said, "It needs to be dealt with immediately. We're calling for an immediate investigation and accountability as soon as possible."

And Democratic Assemblywoman Monica Wallace of Cheektowaga and Lancaster adds the investigator must "have subpoena authority. That person would be able to question witnesses under oath, and that would help us determine who's really telling the truth, what really happened."

There was some bargaining earlier in the day with the governor's attorney suggesting the attorney general and the chief justice of the State Court of Appeals, Janet DiFiore, jointly select the person to review or investigate.

But the attorney general said no to that plan. Some pointed out the chief justice was appointed by Cuomo. The governor then was expected to give that official referral power solely to the attorney general, as she requested. 

That followed a previous move by Cuomo to have a retired federal judge head up a review. But again some questioned the judge's ties to another former Cuomo top aide who has recently spoken out in Cuomo's defense.

Now as lawmakers head back to Albany on Monday to also deal with the difficult budget process and the coronavirus pandemic, some Republican lawmakers such as State Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt of Lockport are saying the governor should resign immediately.