New York attorney general defends office’s handling of misconduct allegations against chief of staff

New York attorney general defends office’s handling of misconduct allegations against chief of staff

Updated: 1 month, 21 days, 12 hours, 38 seconds ago

CNN

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New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday defended her office’s handling of allegations of sexual harassment against her former chief of staff, saying she believes it treated the claims “aggressively.”

“I thank the women who came forward, and I want to assure them that they were heard and that I believe them,” James, a Democrat, said in a statement. “My office treated this matter as aggressively as every other matter that has come before our office.”

The attorney general added that she is “confident in the steps that were taken to swiftly review the allegations and in the integrity of the investigation.”

James’ statement follows a call from New York Republicans for an investigation into her handling of the misconduct allegations after newly released documents in The New York Times revealed the timeline of when her office became aware of the allegations against Ibrahim Khan and the steps it took to hire outside counsel to conduct an independent investigation.

Khan resigned last month after he was accused of “inappropriate touching and unwanted kissing by at least one woman,” according to the Times. Details on the allegations and the investigation’s findings have not been publicly released. According to the Times, the woman’s allegations were substantiated.

Khan said in a statement last week that the investigation into him “found no official workplace misconduct.”

In the Wednesday statement, James said her office took disciplinary action to put Khan “under restrictions” within 24 hours and within 72 hours, “engaged an outside law firm that began an impartial and exhaustive review of the allegations.”

Khan resigned during that process, James said, but upon conclusion of the investigation, her office spoke with each individual and “informed them that allegations were substantiated.”

Details of the office’s engagement of the law firm and steps it took to restrict Khan were outlined in documents it released Tuesday.

State Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, a Republican, told CNN on Tuesday that he was calling on New York’s assembly judiciary committee to launch a formal investigation.

“If there was a cover-up, if there was some inappropriate behavior by the attorney general, then we need to take the proper steps to hold her accountable,” he said.

GOP State Assemblyman Edward Ra didn’t directly call for an investigation when asked, but said one was warranted.

“Unfortunately our state, both within the legislature and agencies, have had problems in this realm and they continue to pop up,” he told CNN.

Serena Longley, deputy counsel for the attorney general’s office, previously told CNN that policies are in place to protect the confidentiality of the witnesses and their allegations. The office, Longley said, “has policies in place to protect the privacy and confidentiality of cooperating witnesses, including policies against releasing names of witnesses or information about their allegations.”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said Wednesday that she believes steps were taken to make sure there was accountability.

“We must be clear in condemning sexual harassment wherever it arises,” Hochul said. “There needs to be accountability, and my understanding that steps were taken toward that.”