In an excerpt from a wide-ranging exclusive interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, President Joe Biden did not mince words about the investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior surrounding New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Asking about the probe by New York's attorney general Letitia James into the allegations, Stephanopoulos posed the question to the president: "If the investigation confirms the claims of the women, should he resign?"
"Yes," Biden said. "I think he'll probably end up being prosecuted, too."
Charlotte Bennett, one of Cuomo's sexual harassment accusers, revealed new details about Cuomo’s behavior and what she said was a “sexually hostile work environment,” according to her lawyer, including a claim the governor frequently made suggestive remarks about the size of his hands.
Bennett, a former aide in the governor's administration, is one of more than half a dozen women who have accused Cuomo of harassment or inappropriate behavior. She alleged he would inquire about her sex life and whether she would sleep with an older man.
Her attorney, Debra Katz, said in a statement that Bennett also gave "detailed information" on the work environment in the governor's offices in Albany and Manhattan, which called sexually hostile.
“As we have said before, it is imperative that this investigation not only focus on Gov. Cuomo’s actions, but also on the culture of fear, abuse and secrecy that he and his most senior staff cultivated," Katz said. "To that end, we have full confidence in the investigation and the investigators. We urge others who have been subjected to inappropriate conduct by the Governor – and we know you are out there – to come forward with what you experienced. And to those who observed the behavior, we urge you to do the same.”
The investigation launched this month by Attorney General Letitia James's office is being co-led by Anne Clark, an employment discrimination attorney, and former U.S. Attorney Joon Kim.
Cuomo has denied ever touching anyone inappropriately, though after Bennett's initial allegation he apologized to anyone who he said he may have made feel uncomfortable in the workplace.
Stephanopoulos also asked about the surge of migrants and unaccompanied minors on the U.S.-Mexico border: "Do you have to say quite clearly, 'Don't come'?"
"Yes, I can say quite clearly: Don't come over," Biden replied. "Don't leave your town or city or community."
The Biden administration has been trying to get a handle on the large number of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in recent weeks, which has given Republicans ammunition to attack the new president’s immigration policies.
While President Joe Biden does not take the hard-line immigration approach of former President Donald Trump, Biden administration officials have repeatedly tried to convey the message to migrants that now is not the time to try to enter the U.S.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday defended the Biden administration's handling of the migrant surge at the border, saying in a lengthy statement that it is a "difficult" challenge, but said his agency is working around the clock and making progress toward bringing the matter under control.
Mayorkas said that the U.S. is on pace to see more migrants at the border than it has in 20 years. The Homeland Security chief, however, stressed that, with limited exceptions such as certain "acute vulnerabilities," adults and families are being immediately expelled to Mexico or their home countries, citing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 rules.
The Biden administration, however, is not sending unaccompanied children back, as the Trump administration had done. Mayorkas said Customs and Border Protection agents are seeing kids as young as 6 and 7 years old.
“They are vulnerable children and we have ended the prior administration’s practice of expelling them,” the DHS chief wrote.
The U.S. government has struggled to find capacity to hold the minors and in some cases is missing the 72-hour deadline for transferring them from the custody of CBP, whose facilities are jail-like holding cells, to Health and Human Services. The government then tries to place the children with sponsors — 80% of the time with a family member — until their asylum case can be heard, Mayorkas said.
Mayorkas noted that the crush of migrants at the border is not unprecedented.
“We have experienced migration surges before – in 2019, 2014, and before then as well,” he wrote.
"Was it a mistake not to anticipate this surge?" Stephanopoulos asked Biden.
"First of all, there was a surge in the last two years," Biden replied. "In '19 and '20, there was a surge, as well."
"This one might be worse," Stephanopoulos said.
"Well, it could be," he acknowledged.
Biden also weighed in on the legislative filibuster, the 60-vote threshold by which debate can be brought to a close in the Senate – a battle is heating up over the rule as progressive Democrats call on leadership to abolish it.
For the first time, Biden, a stalwart of the Senate, said he supports changing the filibuster rule, potentially delivering progressives a major win.
"Aren't you going to have to choose between preserving the filibuster, and advancing your agenda?" Stephanopoulos asked the president.
"Yes, but here's the choice: I don't think that you have to eliminate the filibuster, you have to do it what it used to be when I first got to the Senate back in the old days," Biden replied. "You had to stand up and command the floor, you had to keep talking."
Biden said he is for bringing back the talking filibuster, which would require Senators actually stand on the floor and speak the entire time they wish to extend debate.
"That's what it was supposed to be," Biden said. "It's getting to the point where, you know, democracy is having a hard time functioning."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) warned in a floor speech Tuesday that Democrats changing filibuster rules — using the so-called “nuclear option” to eliminate the 60-vote threshold and require all bills be passed by a simple majority — would lead to a “completely scorched earth Senate.”
“This chaos would not open up an express lane to liberal change,” the Kentucky Republican continued. “It would not open up an express lane for the Biden presidency to speed into the history books. The Senate would be more like a hundred-car pile-up. Nothing moving.”
The full interview with Biden and Stephanopoulos will air on "Good Morning America" Wednesday morning.
Spectrum News' Nick Reisman and Ryan Chatelain contributed to this report.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.