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Andrew Cuomo Under Oath: Proud, Prickly and Often Unable to Recall

He offered denials in flurries. He protested, quibbled, digressed or simply could not recall. He taunted his interrogators and reacted furiously to their questions.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was every inch his combative self as he fought for his political life in a July interview with investigators with the New York State attorney general’s office. Through 11 hours of questioning under oath on that summer Saturday, Mr. Cuomo was proud, prickly, defiant and dismissive as he tried to cast doubt on the accusations of the women who said he had sexually harassed them.

The interview was the climactic moment in an investigation that toppled one of the country’s most powerful elected Democrats less than a year after he was celebrated as a hero for his response to the coronavirus pandemic. Its transcript was one of a dozen documents, comprising thousands of pages, that the attorney general’s office made public on Wednesday.

The documents provided some new details, including the devastating firsthand testimony of an unnamed female state trooper whose descriptions of Mr. Cuomo running his finger down her spine and his hand across her stomach had prompted many state lawmakers to call for the governor’s resignation. There were also a number of exhibits that shed further light on the response of Mr. Cuomo’s aides to his early accusers.

But the transcript of Mr. Cuomo’s interview in particular offered an extraordinary portrait of a politician who, even facing the intense pressure that would soon lead to his resignation, could not help but go on the offensive.

So, during the interview, Mr. Cuomo mocked. In the opening minutes, he feigned confusion about the title of one of his questioners, Joon H. Kim, a former acting U.S. attorney who Mr. Cuomo has implied, without evidence, was out to get him.

Mr. Cuomo preened. Asked whether he remembered the draft of a letter in which he was referred to as “handsome,” he said, “I remember the handsome.”

He debated the definition of “date” and “girlfriend,” defining the second word as “a girl who is a friend,” although he later acknowledged that the relationship in question had in fact been romantic.

When necessary, he offered sharp rebuttals. He was asked about an allegation that after seeing his dog jump close to an aide, Lindsey Boylan, he had said, “If I was a dog, I would mount you, too.”

“That is a gross and vulgar statement,” Mr. Cuomo retorted. “And I wouldn’t say that to anyone under any circumstance.”

The release of the investigative materials by the state attorney general, Letitia James, came three months after her office issued a report that concluded Mr. Cuomo had, despite his denials, sexually harassed at least 11 women.

Much has changed since then. Mr. Cuomo resigned from office a week after the report’s release, clearing way for the ascension of New York’s first female governor, Kathy Hochul.

Ms. James declared her own candidacy for governor this month, a day after Mr. Cuomo was criminally charged by the Albany County sheriff based on allegations made by one of the women interviewed as part of the attorney general’s investigation. (The future of the misdemeanor case against Mr. Cuomo is far from clear, after the Albany County district attorney suggested the complaint might be “potentially defective.”)

But the release of the materials on Wednesday turned the calendar back to a time when Mr. Cuomo’s fate as governor was not yet sealed and he was in the midst of a battle he believed he could win.

That belief, and the formidable power of a sitting governor, may help explain Mr. Cuomo’s posture toward the investigators in July. He was particularly aggressive toward Mr. Kim, the acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan from 2017 to 2018 and a top deputy in the office during a lengthy inquiry into Mr. Cuomo’s administration.

Mr. Cuomo was blunt in expressing his opinion of Mr. Kim directly to the former prosecutor, saying that his role in the inquiry was “bizarre” and raised “ethical and legal questions.”

“You, as a reviewer, I believe, is such a perversion,” Mr. Cuomo told Mr. Kim, adding, with apparent sarcasm, “Independent, fair reviewer with no predisposition — investigated me for years.”

Mr. Cuomo could be expansive in his answers. But when asked about his interactions with his accusers, he was terse in dismissing their claims or said he could not recall. He repeated the phrase “I don’t remember” dozens of times, often about specific statements or actions.

In one line of questioning about whether he had kissed certain staff members on the lips, Mr. Cuomo said it “may have happened” that he kissed three specific senior staff members, and his former scheduler, on the lips.

He was definitive, though, in saying he had not kissed Ms. Boylan or Brittany Commisso, an executive assistant and another of his accusers.

Mr. Cuomo was particularly firm in response to Ms. Commisso’s allegation that he groped her in the Executive Mansion toward the end of last year. The accusation is the basis for the complaint filed by the Albany County sheriff.

“It would be an act of insanity to touch a woman’s breast and make myself vulnerable to a woman for such an accusation,” he said. “I am 63 years old. I have been in every public office, state, federal. Numerous people have tried to set me up. I’m always wary of people. I have phenomenal precautions.”

Even as Mr. Cuomo repeatedly denied acting inappropriately toward his accusers, he refused to rule out the possibility that he had touched his employees in ways that trampled over the bounds of professionalism or that he had made comments that could be considered inappropriate in most workplaces.

Had an employee ever sat in his lap? “Not as a general rule,” he said. “But I wouldn’t be surprised, at a social event or something, somebody may have sat on my lap.”

Did he give nicknames to his employees? Yes, he said. He had even given one to the lawyer he had recently retained, Rita Glavin.

“I call Rita, my new friend, ‘lovely Rita meter maid,’” Mr. Cuomo said, a reference to the Beatles song.

The governor told investigators that he was trying to improve his behavior — that, for example, his daughters had advised him not to refer to his employees as “sweetheart,” “darling” or “honey.”

“Have I slipped on occasion?” Mr. Cuomo said. “Yes.”

Ms. Glavin was among the members of the former governor’s team who objected to the way Ms. James chose to partially release the documents undergirding the report on Wednesday, calling the move “slow-rolling and selective.”

“The A.G. wants to prejudice people against the governor,” Ms. Glavin said in a statement, adding that Ms. James was trying to “distract” from her own report.

Ms. James had declined for months to release the documents, citing the wishes of a number of prosecutors investigating Mr. Cuomo for possible sex-related crimes.

On Wednesday, she said in a statement that after the Albany County sheriff filed the criminal complaint against Mr. Cuomo, the Albany district attorney’s office informed her that it would begin releasing the evidence to Mr. Cuomo. That, she said, led her to tell the prosecutors that she would release the transcripts and other investigative materials on a rolling basis “in an effort to provide full transparency to the people of New York.”

Mr. Cuomo and his allies saw her actions differently.

“After months of stalling, James has been forced to release transcripts,” Mr. Cuomo tweeted, echoing a statement released by his spokesman, Richard Azzopardi, who repeated the claim that Ms. James’s report was politically motivated.

The message was reminiscent of Mr. Cuomo’s posture during that July day, when, even under tough questioning, he could not resist trying to bait Mr. Kim.

At one point, seeking to illustrate the sort of appropriate comment he would make about a colleague’s attire, he complimented the investigator’s tie.

“That’s a nice tie,” he said. He then added: “I don’t really think it’s a nice tie, but for the purposes of illustration.”

And at the conclusion of the interview, Mr. Cuomo was unable to pass up a parting shot.

“I would like to say it was a pleasure, Mr. Kim,” he said. “But I’m under oath.”

Grace Ashford, Nicholas Fandos, Michael Gold and Rebecca Davis O’Brien contributed reporting.

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