The scrutiny of Covid-19 deaths in New York nursing homes has also put the governor’s aggressive behavior in the spotlight.
ALBANY, N.Y. — During Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s first term, two former administration officials were married in a New York City wedding heavily attended by state government workers, as well as some lawmakers and their aides.
When it was time for the toasts, a guest who worked for the Cuomo administration began with a question: “Who in this room has been yelled at or bullied by Andrew Cuomo?”
Hands shot up across the room, as laughter rolled through the crowd, according to two people who attended the wedding.
The theme suffuses many of Mr. Cuomo’s interactions — accounts in which the governor berated aides and elected officials, brought people to tears and threatened to fire them or end their careers. People outside the governor’s direct control who have clashed with him said he told them they would be subject to negative news stories or political challenges or, in one case, would be publicly likened to a “child rapist.”
After building a reputation as a competent and compassionate leader in the midst of a pandemic, Mr. Cuomo’s standing has faltered over the last month amid revelations that his administration underreported thousands of deaths of nursing home residents. Federal prosecutors are investigating, and lawmakers have moved to strip the governor of emergency powers he has held since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.
At the same time, heightened scrutiny is now being cast on a recurrent theme of his decade-long tenure: his penchant for verbal attacks and attempted intimidation. That trait burst into full view last week when a Democratic Assemblyman, Ron T. Kim of Queens, came forward with accusations that the governor had called him while he was home bathing his children and threatened to “destroy” him — urging him to retract negative comments he had made after the nursing home story broke.
During an appearance last week on ABC’s “The View,” Mr. Kim described being deeply rattled by the experience. “He has abused his powers,” Mr. Kim said. “And abusers are cowards.”
Mr. Cuomo’s office has called Mr. Kim a liar, but to many in New York politics, the report rang true, as other accounts of the governor’s aggressive and sometimes unsettling behavior have begun to emerge.
Indeed, in interviews with more than three dozen legislators, political consultants, former state and city officials and New York political veterans, a recurring portrait emerges of Mr. Cuomo: a talented and deft politician whose tendency toward aggression can seem out of step in an age when abusive behavior in the workplace or in professional surroundings is increasingly called out and often censured.
“His primary tool for governing is to create fear,” said Karen Hinton, a communications consultant who worked with Mr. Cuomo when he was housing secretary in the Clinton administration and has since fallen out with him.
In the fall of 2018, for example, when Mr. Cuomo was told by a leader of the Working Families Party — which had backed his primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon — that it would endorse him in the general election because he was better than a Republican, Mr. Cuomo’s response was blunt.
“If you ever say, ‘Well he’s better than a Republican’ again, then I’m going to say, ‘You’re better than a child rapist,’” the governor said, according to two people who were on the call. “How about that?”
He once threatened to end the career of a staffer who failed to properly transfer a call to his office, according to one person who worked for him and requested anonymity for fear of retribution. He has been known to refer to his top female aides as the “mean girls,” said the person, who described the governor’s office as toxic and controlling.
Those who work in the halls of the Capitol say the governor’s conduct has an additional impact: scaring some employees into near paralysis for fear of earning his wrath.
Many of the tactics involve a threat to hurt people’s careers. Ms. Hinton, for example, says she fell out of favor when she became the press secretary for Mr. Cuomo’s nemesis in the Democratic Party, Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Soon, there were threats. During a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in 2015, Ms. Hinton questioned the state’s response in a New York Times article. Ms. Hinton said Mr. Cuomo told City Hall he would personally blame the mayor for any deaths in the city if Mr. de Blasio did not fire Ms. Hinton. The mayor did not dismiss Ms. Hinton, but City Hall distanced itself from her remarks.
One current and one former City Hall official confirmed Ms. Hinton’s account. The governor’s office said neither it or the anecdote about the Working Families Party was true, characterizing the negative comments about Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, as coming from “political adversaries.” The office also said the governor was “direct with people if their work is subpar.”
“The people of this state have known and given the governor their trust for the last 14 years, have heard him and looked into his eyes during the darkest period,” Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Mr. Cuomo, said in a statement. “Yes, they have seen him get impatient with partisan politics and disingenuous attacks, and New Yorkers feel the same way. They know you must fight to change the status quo and special interests to make progress, and no one has made more progress than this governor.”
Even Mr. Cuomo’s detractors will concede that the governor’s heavy-handed approach has often been effective in delivering concrete liberal accomplishments, including legalizing same-sex marriage, raising the minimum wage and enacting criminal justice reforms.
Others describe the governor’s use of anger as “an executive skill,” employed to cut through niceties and other time-wasters — skills of particular use during a pandemic response.
“The governor understands the political value of taking action and creating the perception of strength, even if it occasionally seems cocksure or bullying,” said Eric Phillips, a former spokesman for Mr. de Blasio. He called the governor “a master of brutalist political theater,” though he said those skills were less effective in “a moment demanding contrition or even a modicum of self-critique.”
Defenders also say that New Yorkers — who have elected Mr. Cuomo three times, commandingly — know what the governor’s personality is like. “It’s well-worn territory for the press and the public,” said Josh Vlasto, Mr. Cuomo’s former chief of staff. “Those traits are there, but they are part of a broader perception of him that the voters like and are comfortable with.”
Ken Sunshine, a veteran public relations executive and a longtime friend of the governor’s, noted that the nature of New York politics is tough. “Has he raised his voice on calls with me? I’m sure he has,” Mr. Sunshine said. “Have I done it sometimes? Sure. And by the way, we’re from a place called New York. It’s not for the timid.”
In this dispute, however, Mr. Kim, not the governor, has the support of a raft of New York politicians.
“That’s classic Andrew Cuomo,” said Mr. de Blasio on Thursday. “A lot of people in New York State have received those phone calls.”
Mr. Cuomo’s image was burnished by a series of nationally televised news conferences during the early days of the pandemic, in which the governor mixed just-the-facts presentations with dad jokes and appearances by his three daughters, his mother and his brother, Chris Cuomo, the CNN anchor. Last fall, even as a second wave of the virus began to swell in New York and nationally, he published a memoir, offering “leadership lessons” and a sentimental dedication.
“Love wins,” he wrote in its conclusion. “Always.”
But in the wake of the scandal over nursing homes, that persona has turned darker: On Saturday, Mr. Cuomo’s temper was mocked in a segment on “Saturday Night Live” in which his character, played by comedian Pete Davidson, sheepishly admitted to hiding where the deaths of nursing home residents occurred and promised vengeance on Mr. de Blasio, a frequent political foe.
Other accusations have been more serious: In December, a former top aide to Mr. Cuomo’s economic development agency, Lindsey Boylan, accused Mr. Cuomo of fostering a “toxic team environment.”
On Sunday, Ms. Boylan was among a growing chorus of people speaking out about Mr. Cuomo, telling The Times he is prone to “screaming at people inside and outside of the state government when he does not get exactly what he wants.”
Mr. Cuomo’s penchant for tough-talk tactics dates back decades, to his apprenticeship as an adviser to his father, former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, whom he was known to fiercely defend. “I think he learned it from his father, who needed bare knuckles to combat the old machine pols,” said Michael Shnayerson, author of “The Contender,” a 2015 biography of the younger Mr. Cuomo.
State Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Upper Manhattan who holds sway in the Legislature as the chairwoman of the chamber’s finance committee, said she had never been yelled at by the governor or his staff — for a reason.
She said Joseph Percoco, a former aide and informal enforcer inside the Capitol who was convicted of corruption in 2018, once told her she was on the “do-not-yell-at list.”
“I responded, ‘You people have such a list?’” Ms. Krueger said. “He said: ‘It is very small.’” (Mr. Percoco is in federal prison and could not be reached for comment.)
The backlash against Mr. Cuomo’s governing style stems, in part, from the changing makeup of the Legislature. Democrats won full control in 2018 thanks to a new generation of progressives that is more diverse and often unafraid of challenging the governor.
“The Legislature has become increasingly young and female, defining a feminist vision for leadership and workplace conduct,” said Alexis Grenell, a founder of Pythia Public Affairs who has written about Mr. Cuomo’s aggressive behavior in the past. “It’s not an accident that his loudest critics are young women.”
The rift between the governor and the legislative newcomers has often burst into public view. In 2019, Mr. Azzopardi, the governor’s senior adviser, told reporters after a dispute over fund-raisers that three recently elected female lawmakers, State Senators Alessandra Biaggi and Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, were “idiots,” preceded by a vulgarity.
“This pattern of behavior he has created this really serious systemic culture of fear and abuse of power that shapes policy outcomes in New York and impacts people’s lives,” said Ms. Biaggi, a Democrat who has feuded with the governor’s top aides on Twitter.
Strategists in the Capitol say that the often combustible natures of Mr. Cuomo and his staff make for difficult negotiations, often freighted by fears of retribution.
The instinct to punch first seems to come from the top of the executive chamber: As The New York Times and CNN published accounts of the calls to Mr. Kim on Wednesday, Mr. Cuomo used a large part of his daily news conference to attack the assemblyman, suggesting he had engaged in unethical and possibly criminal behavior in regards to a six-year-old law. (Mr. Kim denied this.)
Mr. Vlasto, the former chief of staff, said that ongoing Republican attacks and Mr. Kim’s suggestion that the governor had committed a crime by withholding the data on deaths was “so over the line,” it justified a strong response.
“This time he decided to smack it down, hard,” he said.
Others recount stories of Mr. Cuomo alternating between charm and rage — at one moment, a charismatic leader who wants to work on policy, and at another, an intimidating one who wants to vent, something one lawmaker described as an unpleasant, sometimes profane experience.
Some of his toughest critics would agree that the governor had earned his good press during the dark days of the pandemic last year. But they also say that his more recent behavior is no surprise.
“This is who he has always been,” said Rebecca Katz, a progressive political consultant who advised Ms. Nixon. “We tried to warn you.”
Meng Wangzhou believed to have left Canada after B.C. court drops extradition case – CBC.ca
A plane believed to be carrying Chinese tech executive Meng Wangzhou took off from the Vancouver airport on Friday, marking a new stage in a legal saga that ensnared Canada — and two of its citizens — in a dispute between the U.S. and Chinese governments.
A B.C. court decided on Friday that the extradition case against Meng would be dropped after the Huawei chief financial officer reached a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. government.
Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, the two Canadian citizens who were detained in China just days after Meng’s arrest in Vancouver, are now on their way back Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed on Friday evening.
Meng’s deal with U.S. prosecutors resolved the charges against the Huawei executive.
The agreement set in motion Meng’s departure from Canada after she had spent nearly three years under house arrest. The plane that departed Vancouver is an Air China charter destined for Shenzhen, the southern Chinese city where Huawei has its headquarters.
As part of her arrangement with U.S. prosecutors, Meng pleaded not guilty in a court Friday to multiple fraud charges.
The Huawei chief financial officer entered the plea during a virtual appearance in a New York courtroom. She was charged with bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracies to commit bank and wire fraud more than two and a half years ago.
David Kessler, an attorney with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, told the court the deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) will last four years — from the time of her arrest on Dec. 1, 2018, to Dec. 1, 2022.
Kessler said that if Meng complies with her obligations, the U.S. will move to dismiss the charges against her at the end of the deferral period. If she doesn’t, she can still be prosecuted.
WATCH | Meng Wangzhou speaks following her B.C. court apperance
The agreed statement of facts from Friday’s U.S. court appearance said that Meng told a global financial institution that a company operating in Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions was a “local partner” of Huawei when in fact it was a subsidiary of Huawei.
“In entering into the deferred prosecution agreement, Meng has taken responsibility for her principal role in perpetrating a scheme to defraud a global financial institution,” Acting U.S. Attorney Nicole Boeckmann said in a statement.
‘Sorry for the inconvenience caused,’ Meng says
Later Friday afternoon, B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes officially ended the Canadian proceedings, signing an order to discharge the U.S. extradition request and vacate Meng’s bail conditions.
She addressed Meng directly before ending a hearing that lasted less than 15 minutes.
“You have been cooperative and courteous throughout the proceedings and the court appreciates and thanks you for that,” Holmes said.
Outside the court, Meng read from prepared remarks while flanked by her legal team. She thanked Holmes for her “fairness” during the proceedings.
“I also appreciate the court for their professionalism and the Canadian government for upholding the rule of law,” Meng said.
“I’m also grateful to the Canadian people and media friends for your tolerance. Sorry for the inconvenience caused.”
‘Meng Wanzhou is free to leave Canada’
In a media statement issued this evening, the federal Department of Justice confirmed that “Meng Wanzhou is free to leave Canada.”
“Canada is a rule of law country,” says the statement. “Meng Wanzhou was afforded a fair process before the courts in accordance with Canadian law. This speaks to the independence of Canada’s judicial system.”
U.S. prosecutors also credited the Canadian justice system for its commitment to the legal process.
“We are enormously grateful to Canada’s Department of Justice for its dedicated work on this extradition and for its steadfast adherence to the rule of law,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Lesko.
Renzo to Head KCL's Centre for Politics, Philosophy and Law – Daily Nous
Massimo Renzo has been appointed as the new Yeoh Tiong Lay Chair and Director of the Yeoh Tiong Lay Centre for Politics, Philosophy and Law at King’s College London (KCL).
Professor Renzo, previously a professor of Politics, Law, and Philosophy at KCL and the acting director of the Yeoh Centre, was selected for the endowed chair and directorship following an open search to fill the position. He works in legal, moral and political philosophy, and has written on topics such as political authority, just war, humanitarian intervention, human rights, philosophy of criminal law, consent, and manipulation, among others. You can browse his writings here.
The Yeoh Centre was founded in 2014 with the aim of exploring “major issues in law and politics through the lens of philosophy.” Its previous director was John Tasioulas (Oxford). You can learn more about it here.
Politics Briefing: Quebec introduces legislation to ban pandemic-related protests near hospitals, other facilities – The Globe and Mail
Quebec’s Premier says he is taking a cautious approach to proceeding with legislation to outlaw COVID-19-related protests within 50 metres of hospitals, vaccination sites and testing centres, among other facilities.
“It’s never easy to say you cannot go on the street,” Premier François Legault told a news conference on Thursday, responding to a media question about why he had decided to proceed now with Bill 105.
The legislation, with details on prospective fines, was tabled Thursday by the province’s Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault in response to recent anti-vaccine protests outside such facilities.
“It’s not something that you can do every day. You have to be careful. We want to make sure that people will not win, trying to say that the law is unacceptable, and we cannot enforce it,” said Mr. Legault.
“We wanted to do it correctly and I think that also we need to have the support of all the other parties, and I think that it’s the right time.”
Provisions of the bill will cease to have effect when the public health emergency declared in March, 2020, ends.
More details on the legislation here.
This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.
TRUDEAU FACES CABINET CHALLENGES – Justin Trudeau will have to contend with the defeat of three female cabinet ministers as he crafts his senior leadership team in what’s expected to be a quick return to governing. Two senior government officials told The Globe and Mail Mr. Trudeau will outline his government’s next steps once Elections Canada has finalized the seat counts, which could be as early as Thursday. Story here.
QUESTIONS RAISED ABOUT O’TOOLE LEADERSHIP – In the first public challenge to Erin O’Toole from within his own ranks, a member of the Conservative Party’s national council says the Tory Leader should face an accelerated leadership review for “betraying” members during the election campaign.
LIMITED DIVERSITY IN TORY CAUCUS – CBC has crunched the the numbers, and concluded that the vast majority of the MPs making up the new Conservative caucus — nearly 95 per cent — are white, even as the country’s racial makeup is diversifying. Before this election, 9 per cent of Tory MPs were BIPOC. Story here,
LPC CANDIDATE ACCUSED OF TAKING RIVAL PAMPHLET – A Calgary resident says he has doorbell security camera footage showing Liberal candidate George Chahal, the night before the election, approach his house in the Calgary Skyview riding and remove an opponent’s campaign flyer before replacing it with one of his own. He posted the footage to Facebook, which has now received thousands of views. Story here.
FORMER LPC CANDIDATE TO SERVE AS INDEPENDENT – Kevin Vuong, who won the Toronto riding of Spadina-Fort York as a Liberal candidate, said he will serve as an Independent MP, days after his party said he will not sit as a member of the caucus. Story here.
TWITTER BERNIER BAN – Twitter restricted People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier’s account, preventing him from posting any new messages for 12 hours after he used the platform to encourage his supporters to “play dirty” with journalists covering his campaign. From CBC. Story here.
KENNEY FENDS OFF LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE – Jason Kenney appears to have quelled another challenge from within his own caucus. A non-confidence vote against the Alberta Premier was withdrawn on Wednesday, but he committed to an earlier-than-planned leadership review, to be held well in advance of Alberta’s 2023 general election. Don Braid of The Calgary Herald writes here on how Mr. Kenney survived this fight against his leadership.
NEW CHARGES AGAINST FORMER SNC-LAVALIN EXECS – SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. and two of its former executives are facing new criminal charges related to a bridge contract in Montreal nearly 20 years ago, plunging the Canadian engineering giant into another legal maelstrom as it tries to rebuild its business after years of crisis. Story here.
FORD LOOKING FOR CHILDCARE DEAL – Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he wants to make a child-care deal with the federal government. The province has acknowledged it was in discussions with Ottawa about a potential agreement into the last hours before the federal election was called in August.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
“Private meetings,” according to an advisory from the Prime Minister’s Office.
No schedules released for party leaders.
Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on whether this is the end of majority governments in Canada: “But in Canada, for one reason or another, the grip of two-party politics has been broken – irrevocably, it seems. As a result, something else that is not supposed to happen under first past the post has been happening, with remarkable frequency: minority governments. This is not just the second straight federal election to produce a Parliament without a majority party: it is the fifth in the past seven, 11th in the past 22.”
Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on why, if any federal leader should be stepping down, it’s the likeable Jagmeet Singh: ‘Strange business, politics. While a bit short of a majority, Justin Trudeau wins a third successive election by a large margin in the seat count. Yet some critics say he should be put out to pasture. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh suffered a drubbing in the 2019 election, losing almost half his party’s seats. With much higher expectations, he did badly again in Monday’s vote, electing (pending mail-in vote counts) only one more member. Yet hardly anyone says a word.”
Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on why the knives are out for Erin O’Toole, but not Jagmeet Singh: “Theoretically, Mr. O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh should be in the same boat. Both failed to channel national frustration over a pandemic election call and turn it into material support; both delivered underwhelming results. But Mr. Singh, who led a campaign that saw the party claim 25 seats as of this writing – just one more than it held before – doesn’t appear to be in immediate jeopardy of losing his job. The saga of former NDP leader Tom Mulcair, who was turfed by his party when the NDP won 44 seats in 2015 (that is, about 75 per cent better than it did on Monday), offers an explanation for why.”
Jen Gerson (Maclean’s) on why Tories should not “do that stupid thing” they’re thinking of doing: “If you dump your affable, moderate, centrist leader at the first opportunity because he didn’t crack the 905 on his first try, and you replace him with someone who will chase Maxime Bernier’s vanishing social movement like a labradoodle running after the wheels of a mail truck, you will wind up confirming every extant fear and stereotype this crowd already holds about you and your party.”
Steve Paikin (TVO) on advice for Justin Trudeau, inspired by the political experiences of former Ontario premier Bill Davis: “I think if Davis were still alive, he’d tell the current Prime Minister: “A lot of people are underestimating you right now. They think you’re damaged because you called this snap election, and it didn’t work out as you’d hoped. Well, I’ve been there. My advice, Prime Minister, is to reach out. Be more collegial and less ideological and adversarial. Establish a good working relationship with your opponents.”
Send along your political questions and we will look at getting answers to run in this newsletter. It’s not possible to answer each one personally. Questions and answers will be edited for length and clarity.
A Canadian COVID-19 study that turned out to be wrong has spread like wildfire among anti-vaxxers – CBC.ca
200,000-year-old handprints may be the world's oldest artwork, scientists say – CBC.ca
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