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Wake Up To Politics - March 1, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: Cuomo under fire
Wake Up To Politics - March 1, 2021

Good morning! It’s Monday, March 1, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 617 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,345 days away. It’s officially March... again... somehow.

Cuomo under fire as second aide alleges harassment

A second former aide accused New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment on Saturday, sparking an outcry that has left the powerful Democrat scrambling to respond.

Charlotte Bennett, who served as a health policy adviser to Cuomo until she stepped down in November, told the New York Times that the governor “had asked her numerous questions about her personal life, including whether she thought age made a difference in romantic relationships, and had said that he was open to relationships with women in their 20s — comments she interpreted as clear overtures to a sexual relationship.”

“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett, who is 25, said.

Bennett did not accuse Cuomo of trying to touch her, but former state economic development official Lindsey Boylan alleged in a Medium post last week that the governor gave her an unsolicited kiss on the lips as she left his Manhattan office one day in 2018. Boylan, 36, said that Cuomo “abused his power as governor to sexually harass me,” claiming that he once invited her to play strip poker and that her boss said that Cuomo had a “crush” on her.

Cuomo denied both allegations after they were published, but gave his lengthiest response yet in a statement published Sunday night. “I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended,” he said. “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (Getty Images)

The pair of sexual harassment allegations come as Cuomo has been grappling with other controversies in New York. Once hailed as a national leader in the fight against COVID-19, his response to the pandemic is now receiving a second look amid allegations that he covered up the coronavirus death toll at Empire State nursing homes.

Cuomo decided in the spring to send thousands of recovering coronavirus patients to New York nursing homes; a January report accused his administration of undercounting the coronavirus-related deaths of nursing home residents in the state by as much as 50 percent. Cuomo’s top aide privately admitted earlier this month that the Democrat’s administration covered up the nursing home death data, leading to a federal investigation. When a state lawmaker spoke out about the cover-up, he claimed that Cuomo responded by threatening him in a bullying phone call.

The combined controversies meant that New York Democrats were quick to call for an independent investigation into the sexual harassment claims after Bennett’s allegation was published this weekend. Cuomo attempted to stanch the fallout by asking a former federal judge, who had ties to members of his inner circle, to lead an outside review into his behavior.

When Democratic leaders in the state demanded a probe that was farther outside of his control, Cuomo’s office called for an investigation led by a lawyer selected by the state’s attorney general and top appeals court judge. That plan was quickly rejected too, and eventually, Cuomo relented and referred the matter to New York Attorney General Tish James, who will appoint a lawyer to conduct a fully independent probe into the allegations.

Some New York Democrats have already begun urging Cuomo’s resignation, while James and others are eyeing primary challenges against him next year. Cuomo has suggested that he intends to seek a fourth term as governor in 2022, even as his political future grows increasingly imperiled.

The Rundown

The House passed President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package early Saturday morning. The package was approved in a 219-212 vote, with two Democrats joining all Republicans in opposition. The plan now goes to the Senate, where the parliamentarian ruled last week that a provision raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour must be stripped out. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) had said he would push a backup plan that would penalize corporations paying less than $15 an hour, but Democrats are reportedly walking away from the effort over fears that it will slow down the legislation’s final passage.

The FDA approved Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot coronavirus vaccine for use in the United States on Saturday. It is the third vaccine that the U.S. has approved for COVID-19. The Biden administration told reporters that the federal government would begin distributing 3.9 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Sunday night; they are slated to be delivered to states and localities by Tuesday morning. The company has promised to manufacture 16 million more doses of the vaccine by the end of March.

The Biden administration released a report on Friday concluding that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “approved” the 2018 operation that killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced visa restrictions against 76 Saudis, dubbed the “Khashoggi Ban,” but the U.S. did not levy any punishment against the crown prince himself, despite the report’s finding. According to the New York Times, Biden decided that the diplomatic cost of directly penalizing MBS was “too high,” even though he pledged as a candidate to punish Saudi Arabia for Khashoggi’s killing and to make the country into a “pariah.”

Supporters of Jamal Khashoggi hold posters bearing his likeness. (Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump spoke at CPAC on Sunday, delivering an address designed to signal his continued control over the Republican Party. Trump used the speech, his first since leaving office, to target congressional Republicans who had voted against him on impeachment, listing them by name and threatening to back challenges against them. Trump also repeatedly teased a possible run for the White House in 2024 and repeated the false claim that he won the 2020 election. “A Republican president will make a triumphant return to the White House,” he said. “And I wonder who that will be.”


All times Eastern.

President Joe Biden will fly back to Washington, D.C., this morning from Wilmington, Delware, where he spent the weekend. He will depart Wilmington at 10:40 a.m. and arrive at the White House at 11:35 a.m., receiving the President’s Daily Brief at 10:50 a.m. while in the air. At 4:30 p.m., Biden will hold a virtual meeting with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico.

According to a White House statement, Biden and López Obrador (known as AMLO) “will discuss cooperation on migration, joint development efforts in Southern Mexico and Central America, COVID-19 recovery, and economic cooperation.” According to Bloomberg, López Obrador will propose a “major new guest-worker programs for Mexicans and Central Americans in the U.S.” during the meeting.

  • Vice President Kamala Harris has no public events scheduled.
  • U.S. public health officials will hold a press briefing at 11 a.m. to “provide updates on the COVID-19 response effort.” Participants will include Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the president; Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, the chair of the White House Health Equity Task Force; and Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator.
  • White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold a press briefing at 12 p.m. with Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. The Senate will convene at 3 p.m. Following the prayer and Pledge of Allegiance, and before Leader remarks, Sonceria “Ann” Berry will be sworn in as secretary of the Senate, becoming the first Black person to hold the office.  

    The chamber will then consider two Biden Cabinet picks: Education Secretary nominee Miguel Cardona, who currently serves as Connecticut commissioner of education, and Commerce Secretary nominee Gina Raimondo, who currently serves as governor of Rhode Island. At 5:30 p.m., the Senate will hold a confirmation vote on Cardona and then a cloture vote to advance Raimondo.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet at 1 p.m. to vote on the nomination of D.C. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland to be Attorney General.The House will convene at 12 p.m. for 15 one-minute speeches from each party. At 2 p.m., the chamber will proceed to legislative business. The House will consider the rule to provide for consideration of H.R. 1, the For the People Act, and H.R. 1280, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, later in the week.
    The Supreme Court justices will release orders from their Friday conference at 9:30 a.m. They will hear oral arguments in United States v. Arthrex Inc. at 10 a.m.

    “An administrative patent judge is someone who decides disputes over patents,” WUTP legal contributor Anna Salvatore explains. “This morning, the Supreme Court will consider whether the Constitution requires patent judges to be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. If that is how they rule, the justices will then decide what the remedy should be for currently-serving patent judges who were appointed by the Secretary of Commerce without receiving Senate confirmation.”

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