Cuomo Responds with Standard BS to Biden’s Reflexive BS

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria (Biden) –REUTERS/Jeenah Moon (Cuomo))

We should not be fooled, even if the press tends to play along with this game.

At another self-serving press conference on Wednesday, Andrew Cuomo was asked about what had the media all atwitter: President Biden’s recent statement that Cuomo should resign and could face prosecution if the sexual-harassment allegations against him are confirmed (see coverage by NR’s Zachary Evans, here). After first issuing the customary denial that Biden had said what Biden had indeed said, the New York governor then pivoted to the customary insistence that he must now refrain from making further public statements because the said allegations are under investigation.

It is farce, through and through.

First, the president’s remarks were only indirectly illuminating: The Cuomo maelstrom is sufficiently serious that the Obama II White House ventriloquists no longer see remaining mum as an option. Biden thus commented, but, on their face, his observations were nothing more than what anyone, however semi-sentient, could have said.

The sexual-harassment allegations were already alarming before the last, still unidentified accuser said Cuomo had groped her under her blouse. If that were confirmed, it would be not merely harassment but criminal sexual conduct under New York law. Obviously, any holder of public office whose commission of a crime of this nature has been confirmed ought to resign and should be prosecuted.

Biden made his banal comments well after many top Democrats had already called for Cuomo to resign — because a) the allegations are grave; b) there are enough of them that a troubling pattern of abuse has emerged regardless of whether any individual incident rises to the level of a provable criminal or civil offense; c) they are in addition to what appears to be Cuomo’s misleading the public, as well as federal and state officials, on the critical matter of COVID-19 nursing-home deaths; and d) this sea of scandal raises significant questions about whether Cuomo can govern effectively, or whether the need to defend him has become too risky and exhausting.

Other Democrats, mainly the hard New York Left, want Cuomo impeached. His ouster would remove an obstacle to their stranglehold on the state (i.e., to consummating Albany’s ongoing transition into Manhattan).

Consequently, establishment Democrats are looking for the safest place to land. The sweet spot is to call on Cuomo to resign but not actually do anything to bring about his ouster. Many, in fact, urge that the issue should not be forced until the conclusion of investigations — which may take months to complete. The idea is to be able to tell the hard Left that they forcefully condemned Cuomo, while maintaining establishment credibility by helping the beleaguered governor tough it out.

The White House and Biden, by contrast, have not even gravitated to this safe all-things-to-all-people position. Biden’s statements boil down to: If, if, if. That is, nothing has been confirmed, so there is nothing concrete to talk about.

Cuomo was right that there was nothing of consequence in what the president said — although he was characteristically deceptive in suggesting that reporters were not accurately reporting the remarks.

Then, as night follows day, the governor resorted to page one in the Scandal Playbook: Pretend that you have no choice but to clam up.

Obviously, no politician enjoys being investigated, especially if the issues are serious ones. But there is always a silver lining: The politician gets to say that the pendency of an official investigation (or three) means he is not at liberty to comment publicly on the matter — either “on advice of counsel,” or “to let the investigators do their work,” etc. Notice that none of these officials ever says, “because anything I say can and will be used against me in a court of law if I am charged with a crime or sued civilly” — even though that would at least be true.

We should not be fooled, even if the press tends to play along with this game.

Prosecutors and investigators are forbidden by various guidelines from commenting on pending probes. Grand jurors are prohibited by law from commenting publicly on what they learn in the proceedings. But the subject of an investigation is under no such restrictions. Cuomo is perfectly free to comment on the matters under investigation. He is choosing not to do so — or to do so only when he sees advantage in it.

Our law gives him every right to do this, but we should not be under any illusions. He is going dark not because he has to, but because (1) if he says things that are true but inculpatory, they can be used to prove his guilt; (2) if he says things that are exculpatory but false, they can be used to prove his consciousness of guilt — which is often the prosecutor’s favorite evidence; and (3) if he says things that are in the nature of veiled threats, he can be charged with obstruction of justice.

That, and that alone, is why scandal-laden public officials clam up.

Let’s pause on what this means. An essential part of an official’s public trust is to be transparent regarding matters of great public interest. When an official (falsely) says he cannot comment on such matters due to a pending investigation, he is saying his personal interest in avoiding criminal or civil liability outweighs the public’s interest in being informed about the matters that most affect the public.

They all do it because they all figure it works. They ought to be called on it. Governor Cuomo ought to be called on it.

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