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Cuomo's top adviser resigns as resignation or impeachment looms
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Cuomo's top adviser resigns as resignation or impeachment looms

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ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s time as the state government’s chief executive was drawing closer to an apparent end Sunday night as his most trusted adviser, Melissa DeRosa, submitted her resignation, saying that the past two years have been “emotionally and mentally trying.”

The abrupt resignation of DeRosa, sharply criticized by the state's top lawyer for her handling of sexual harassment allegations against the governor, was a simple and direct sign: Cuomo's ability to hold onto his job is evaporating by the hour.

DeRosa, whose title was secretary to the governor and made her the most senior, non-elected official in the Executive Branch, threw in the towel late Sunday evening at a time when her role in sexual harassment allegations against the governor has heightened.

Read the full story from News Albany Bureau Chief Tom Precious

She was among the top staffers who State Attorney General Letitia James last week said did not follow procedures and may have been a part of retaliation efforts in at least one of the cases brought forward by 11 women who accused Cuomo of sexually harassing them.

The resignation came as three other major developments were underway Sunday evening:

• “Executive Assistant #1,’’ as she was called in the attorney general’s report last week, was publicly revealed in advance of a CBS TV report on Monday morning in which she provided more details about her allegations that Cuomo groped her in the Executive Mansion last November.

• The Assembly Judiciary Committee will meet Monday morning, in what should be a mix of public and private sessions, just days before it has given Cuomo until Friday evening to produce any further evidence to support his defense before the panel moves to recommend the impeachment of the third-term Democratic governor. If Cuomo does not resign, he could be impeached as early as later this month or early September by the Assembly, which would automatically remove him from office before an impeachment trial is held in the Senate this fall. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Buffalo Democrat, would take over for Cuomo.

• Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths kept rising again over the weekend, as the state government’s response was disrupted by the swirl around Cuomo’s political and legal future. Against the complaints by local health officials around the state, Cuomo singlehandedly seized control of the state’s Covid pandemic response last year – and later cut a $5.1 million book deal to tell his story about the crisis – and the infrastructure of the government is now grappling with how to cope with a worsening public health situation while its chief executive is facing his own political demise.

On Monday morning, Brittany Commisso, a 33-year-old woman who served as an executive assistant to Cuomo, publicly spoke for the first time about incidents in which she says the governor inappropriately touched her, including groping her breast. Cuomo has denied ever touching anyone inappropriately, including Commisso. "I know what happened and so does he,'' Commisso said in an interview by CBS News and the Albany Times Union.

In a recent attorney general's report, Commisso was identified as "Executive Assistant #1." She said Monday morning she had taken any legal action against the governor until March 3, when he broadcast a video denying any wrongdoing. She said he had a "smirk" on his face and a look of being untouchable. "That was the tipping point,'' she said. Last week, after the attorney general's report was released that said he sexually harassed 11 women, Commisso filed a criminal complaint against Cuomo with the Albany County Sheriff.

In DeRosa, Cuomo found the most loyal of confidantes, willing to take on any legislators, agency commissioners, local officials and most anyone else to advance the positions of her boss. The daughter of a longtime and politically wired lobbyist, DeRosa also had her own brand on social media and even a Times Square billboard over the years. She was a regular feature during Cuomo’s Covid briefings since March of 2020, seen passing him notes and answering more detailed questions on the governor’s behalf.

The significance of the departure of DeRosa cannot be overstated; the governor’s circle of most trusted advisers is, at best, counted on one hand, and DeRosa was the person he could reliably turn to for advice that he believed would best serve him and his administration’s objectives.

“It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve the people of New York for the past 10 years,’’ DeRosa said in a statement Sunday night.

“New Yorkers’ resilience, strength and optimism through the most difficult of times has inspired me every day,’’ she added. “Personally, the past two years have been emotionally and mentally trying.”

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