Cuomo defends former aide Schwartz amid AG Vax-for-Play probe

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo stands alongside a former high-ranking aide accused of twisting political arms on his behalf while overseeing the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine – actions the former staff member is currently doing under investigation by the state attorney general’s office.

Cuomo told reporters on Monday that former Gov. Secretary Larry Schwartz “had done a phenomenal job” as the state’s vaccine czar, adding: “I have complete confidence in him.”

But Cuomo also repeatedly said that Schwartz was a “volunteer” when he allegedly questioned county officials about their loyalty to the governor as he planned to distribute what was then extremely limited in vaccines.

“Larry Schwartz was a volunteer, helping the vaccination effort at its own pace,” Cuomo said at a press conference at his Manhattan office.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is alongside Larry Schwartz, who is under investigation by the state attorney general.
Mary Altaffer / AP, Pool

Two Democratic county leaders told the Post on Saturday that they were contacted by state investigators about their conversations with Schwartz.

One of them described having undergone a “formal interview” on Zoom that lasted an hour, during which investigators requested copies of relevant telephone records and text messages.

The talks were part of an expanded and independent investigation by Attorney General Letitia James into a series of misconduct allegations made against Cuomo in recent months, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Former Secretary to Governor Larry Schwartz
Former Gov. Secretary Larry Schwartz is accused of twisting political arms on Gov. Cuomo’s behalf while overseeing the deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Stephen B. Morton for Governor Andrew Cuomo

The investigation, which is being conducted by outside lawyers, initially focused on accusations that Cuomo sexually harassed female helpers and then expanded to include allegations that he used state agents to assist. to prepare and promote his successful memoirs.

Cuomo’s spokesperson also claimed that these employees had “volunteered” of their time.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, left, and Gov. Secretary Larry Schwartz
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former Gov. Secretary Larry Schwartz are seen at a cabinet meeting on December 17, 2014.
Mike Groll / AP

But that claim was disputed last month, including by a former aide who allegedly said the efforts were “not optional” and “considered part of your job.”

The interviews with Schwartz followed reports – including in The Post – in which county officials described receiving calls from him in apparent response to the flood of sexual harassment allegations enveloping Cuomo at the time.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a fellow Democrat, said Schwartz “asked if I support the governor.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, right, then Gov. Larry Schwartz's secretary
Governor Cuomo told reporters that former secretary to Governor Larry Schwartz “did a phenomenal job.”
Mike Groll / AP, dossier

“I explained that there were serious allegations and that I was in favor of an independent investigation,” Bellone told The Post.

Another unidentified county leader told the New York Times that Schwartz made a similar call immediately after the official ended a conversation about the vaccination effort with an official in the Cuomo administration.

The county executive’s legal counsel has filed a preliminary complaint with the attorney general’s office, alleging a potential ethics violation, the Times said, citing a source familiar with the complaint.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, right, followed by Governor's Secretary Larry Schwartz
Governor Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly said that Larry Schwartz is a “volunteer”.
Mike Groll / AP, dossier

Cuomo’s office insisted that Schwartz “did not bring up the distribution of vaccines” during his conversations with various officials.

“Misrepresenting Larry’s role or intentions for the headlines denigrates a decades-long public servant who has only volunteered around the clock since March to help New York City weather the COVID pandemic,” the spokesperson said Rich Azzopardi last weekend.



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