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Friday, 26 March 2021

Andrew Cuomo 'doesn't use email to communicate with staffers and gives orders either by phone or in-person' - and no paper trail could hinder investigations into sexual harassment and nursing home deaths

 Investigators looking into the nursing home and sexual harassment scandals involving New York Governor Andrew Cuomo could be hindered by the lack of a paper trail since he avoid emails and communicates verbally with aides.

Cuomo faces several investigations from the Justice Department, the New York State Attorney General’s Office, and the State Assembly into whether his administration concealed the number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.

The governor is also under investigation after eight women came forward to accuse him of sex crimes ranging from harassment to assault.

But Cuomo’s propensity to scrupulously avoid communicating in a way that leaves digital fingerprints - either via email or text - will complicate efforts to uncover any incriminating evidence against the governor, according to The Intercept.

The governor operates under a code of behavior he reportedly learned from his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, who reportedly said: ‘Never write when you can talk. Never talk when you can nod. And never put anything in email.’

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (pictured in his office in 2015) does not use email and communicates with staff either on the phone or in person in order to avoid leaving a paper trail, it has been reported

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (pictured in his office in 2015) does not use email and communicates with staff either on the phone or in person in order to avoid leaving a paper trail, it has been reported

During Cuomo’s political career, the modus operandi appears to have worked as he has managed to evade scandal even as others in his inner circle went to prison for corruption-related crimes.

In September 2018, a former Cuomo aide, Joseph Percoco, who was said to be like a brother to the governor as well as his ‘right hand’, was sentenced to six years in prison for fraud and accepting bribes.


Percoco, 49, was convicted in March of that year of accepting more than $300,000 from companies that wanted to gain influence with the Cuomo administration.

Cuomo wasn’t accused of wrongdoing, but testimony presented an unflattering picture of the inner workings of his office.

The scandal didn’t substantially hurt Cuomo with Democrats during his primary win over Cynthia Nixon that same year.

He won in a landslide.

The feds who investigated Percoco were unable to prove that Cuomo, who has a reputation for obsessive micromanagement, knew what his trusted aide was doing.

Cuomo's penchant for secrecy could hinder efforts by investigators to find incriminating evidence as the governor is coming under scrutiny for alleged sexual harassment as well as claims his administration concealed the number COVID-19 patients who died in nursing homes. Cuomo is seen above in New York on Thursday

Cuomo's penchant for secrecy could hinder efforts by investigators to find incriminating evidence as the governor is coming under scrutiny for alleged sexual harassment as well as claims his administration concealed the number COVID-19 patients who died in nursing homes. Cuomo is seen above in New York on Thursday

In December 2018, a man who the governor referred to as his ‘economic guru’ - Alain Kaloyeros - was sentenced to more than three years in prison for his role in corrupting the state’s Buffalo Billion project.

Kaloyeros, the Beirut-born former head of the State University of New York’s Polytechnic Institute, was convicted of conspiracy and wire fraud in July of that year.

Cuomo was not accused of wrongdoing himself in the Buffalo Billion prosecution, but the corruption allegations have left a cloud over his administration.

The judge, Valerie E. Caproni, said Kaloyeros became ‘the Apple in Cuomo’s eyes’ as the governor initiated the biggest development project in upstate New York in recent memory.

She said Kaloyeros did not profit financially but ‘profited politically’ by helping to rig the bidding process for projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Kaloyeros was the president of New York’s Polytechnic Institute when Cuomo tapped him to help a quest to create high-tech jobs in upstate New York.

Cuomo’s penchant for covering his tracks has been well known for years.

In 2012, it was reported that the governor communicated with his staff using the PIN-to-PIN messaging system that was available on Blackberry devices that were popular at the time.

Cuomo used the messaging system, which is designed to bypass any data-saving mechanism that would keep a record of the conversation, whenever an aide was unable to speak to the governor by phone or in person.

Emails and text messages can be recovered even if they are deleted since those messages are sent over a server, but PIN messages on a Blackberry were deleted permanently with no possibility of ever being saved.

Whenever media organizations filed Freedom of Information requests to obtain emails and other communications sent to and from the administration, the official response was there were no such records.

Joe Percoco
Alain Kaloyeros

In 2018, two Cuomo aides - Joseph Percoco (left) and Alain Kaloyeros (right) - were sentenced to prison by a federal judge after they were convicted for crimes including bribery and wire fraud. Cuomo was not accused of wrongdoing in either case

After Blackberry devices went out of style, Cuomo obtained an iPhone.

According to the Times Union of Albany, Cuomo asked two of the women who have accused him of sexual harassment to help him with navigating the phone because he claimed not to know how to use it.

Charlotte Bennett, a former aide, was allegedly lured to his office because the governor claimed he ‘was uncertain how to get from his “settings” app to his “notes” app.’

While Bennett said that nothing inappropriate took place during this encounter, it took place a day after she claims the governor asked her intimate and probing questions about her sex life.

Bennett said she had to stand close to the governor while helping him navigate his iPhone, which made her uncomfortable in light of the previous day’s alleged discussions.

Cuomo has said he ‘never made advances toward Ms. Bennett, nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate.’

An unidentified accuser alleged that she was asked to see the governor because ‘Cuomo said he could not operate the “notes” app on his iPhone and needed her assistance.’

That’s when the governor allegedly reached up her skirt and groped her breasts.

Cuomo released a statement in response to the allegations, calling them ‘gut-wrenching’ though he denied touching any woman ‘inappropriately.’

‘There is still a question of the truth. I did not do what has been alleged, period,’ Cuomo told reporters on Friday.

Relatives of those who died of COVID-19 in New York nursing homes gathered on Sunday. State and federal authorities are looking into the Cuomo administration's conduct in reporting COVID-19 nursing home deaths

Relatives of those who died of COVID-19 in New York nursing homes gathered on Sunday. State and federal authorities are looking into the Cuomo administration's conduct in reporting COVID-19 nursing home deaths

‘I won’t speculate about people’s possible motives, but I can tell you as former attorney general who’s gone through this many times, there are often many motivations for making an allegation.

‘And that is why you need to know the facts before you make a decision.’

The flurry of allegations in recent weeks, along with revelations that Cuomo's administration under-reported nursing home deaths from COVID-19, has led to a growing clamor among prominent fellow Democrats in New York for his resignation.

Cuomo issued a directive on March 25 last year ordering nursing homes to readmit COVID-positive patients because of a lack of space in hospitals.

The move has been slammed for costing many lives given the elderly were especially vulnerable and that nursing homes were hotbeds for the virus.

The ruling was reversed on May 10, barring nursing homes from accepting COVID-19 patients without a negative test first.

New York state Attorney General Letitia James has named a team of outside lawyers to lead an investigation into accusations the governor harassed women through unwelcome, sexualized comments and inappropriate physical contact, including unsolicited kissing.

Cuomo has vowed to cooperate with the investigation overseen by the state's attorney general, and has steadfastly refused to step down before the inquiry is concluded.

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