New York AG Eric Schneiderman resigns over assault allegations

Posted at 11:31 PM, May 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-07 23:31:35-04

(CNN) — New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has resigned, following a report on allegations of assault by multiple women inThe New Yorker.

“It’s been my great honor and privilege to serve as Attorney General for the people of the State of New York. In the last several hours, serious allegations, which I strongly contest, have been made against me,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “While these allegations are unrelated to my professional conduct or the operations of the office, they will effectively prevent me from leading the office’s work at this critical time. I therefore resign my office, effective at the close of business on May 8, 2018.”

Schneiderman’s swift resignation, which came just hours after The New Yorker published its report, is a shocking fall from grace for a once rising star in Democratic politics. Schneiderman had cast himself as a fierce opponent and critic of President Donald Trump.

Schneiderman has also been a vocal proponent of the #MeToo movement, bringing legal action in New York against film producer Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of sexually assaulting women.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had called for Schneiderman’s resignation earlier Monday.

“No one is above the law, including New York’s top legal officer,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I will be asking an appropriate New York District Attorney to commence an immediate investigation, and proceed as the facts merit.”

“My personal opinion is that, given the damning pattern of facts and corroboration laid out in the article, I do not believe it is possible for Eric Schneiderman to continue to serve as Attorney General, and for the good of the office, he should resign,” he added.

On Monday, The New Yorker magazine reported the allegations of four women who accused Schneiderman of physical violence against them.

Two of the women, Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam, spoke on the record to the magazine, saying they had been romantically involved with Schneiderman but that the violence was nonconsensual, and which The New Yorker described as occurring “often after drinking, frequently in bed and never with their consent.”

According to The New Yorker, Manning Barish and Selvaratnam said he had hit and choked them, and that they later sought medical attention because of it. Selvaratnam also alleged that Schneiderman threatened to tap her phone, among other threats.

Both women alleged that the incidents often occurred after Schneiderman had been drinking.

“I could not remain silent and encourage other women to be brave for me,” Manning Barish posted on Facebook. “I could not leave my sisters who had been harmed hanging-discredited-when I knew the truth.”

In a statement forwarded to CNN through a friend, Selvaratnam said that after finding out other women had accused Schneiderman of abuse, she wondered who was next.

“So I chose to come forward both to protect women who might enter into a relationship with him in the future but also to raise awareness around the issues of intimate partner violence,” her statement read.

Schneiderman, a Democrat, tweeted a statement on Monday evening, writing that nonconsensual sex “is a line I would not cross.”

“In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity. I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in non-consensual sex, which is a line I would not cross,” the tweet reads.

Jennifer Cunningham, Schneiderman’s ex-wife, came to his defense Monday evening and said in a statement that the allegations “are completely inconsistent with the man I know.”

“I’ve known Eric for nearly 35 years as a husband, father and friend. These allegations are completely inconsistent with the man I know, who has always been someone of the highest character, outstanding values and a loving father. I find it impossible to believe these allegations are true,” Cunningham said.

The New York Police Department said in a statement that it had no complaints against Schneiderman but that if it receives any “it will investigate them thoroughly.”

Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York earlier Monday evening had echoed Cuomo’s calls for Schneiderman to step down.

“The violent actions described by multiple women in this story are abhorrent,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “Based on this extensive and serious reporting, I do not believe that Eric Schneiderman should continue to serve as Attorney General. There should be a full and immediate investigation into these credible allegations.”

CNN had reached out to Schneiderman, who is not married, for comment and was given a copy of his tweet.

Two more women, who are unnamed, also accuse Schneiderman of physical abuse in the news report, including one woman who is characterized by The New Yorker as “an attorney who has held prominent positions in the New York legal community” and asked to remain anonymous. The reportedly prominent lawyer said that when she rejected Schneiderman, he slapped her so forcefully a mark was still visible the following day, according to The New Yorker.

Following the report outlining allegations against Schneiderman, Trump counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway shared a tweet of Schneiderman’s from October 2017 where he called out the Trump administration, saying: “No one is above the law, and I’ll continue to remind President Trump and his administration of that fact everyday.”

To this, Conway replied in her own tweet: “Gotcha.”