New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says he will resign Tuesday, just hours after four women he was romantically involved with accused him of physical violence in accounts published by The New Yorker.
In a statement released Monday around 9:45 p.m., the state attorney general — who had been running for re-election — said, "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. 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."
Sources tell NY1 that Solicitor General Barbara Underwood will take over for the office when Schneiderman steps down Tuesday.
Underwood, who has been solicitor general since 2007, had previously held executive positions in the Queens and Brooklyn District Attorneys' offices, and served as a trial attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney's office.
Late-Monday night, the Manhattan district attorney's office said it has opened an investigation into the allegations against Schneiderman.
Schneiderman had been tasked with investigating Vance over his handling of a 2015 sexual abuse allegation against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Schneiderman's announced resignation came less than two hours after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he would ask for a criminal investigation into Schneiderman, and called on him to resign.
In a statement, Cuomo said, "No one is above the law, including New York's top legal officer. 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."
It was all the fallout of four women who have had romantic relationships with Schneiderman — whose office has taken on a high-profile role in the fight against sexual misconduct — accusing him of physically abusing them.
Two of the women spoke on record to The New Yorker, which published their claims against Schneiderman on Monday around 6:50 p.m.
Those women said Schneiderman repeatedly hit them during the course of their relationships with him in recent years, and never with their consent. Neither woman filed any police complaints, but both said they sought out medical attention and confided in people close to them about the abuse. The NYPD said it has no complaints on-file but would investigate thoroughly if it receives any.
A third woman who also was involved with him told her story to the other two women, but said she was too frightened to come forward. A fourth woman said Schneiderman slapped her when she rebuffed him, but also asked to remain unidentified. The New Yorker said it vetted the third woman's allegations, and saw a photo of what the fourth woman said was her injury.
The two women who spoke on the record, Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam, both said the physical abuse escalated over time, including choking and hitting, and that Schneiderman also was a heavy drinker. The Associated Press and Spectrum News are identifying the women because they agreed to tell their stories publicly.
Manning Barish said she was involved with Schneiderman from mid-2013 through the end of 2014; Selvaratnam said she was involved with him from the summer of 2016 until fall 2017.
Manning Barish said Schneiderman started getting violent a few weeks after they began dating, slapping her one night after an evening out and escalating to choking her. She said she confided in friends, including novelist Salman Rushdie.
Selvaratnam said Schneiderman warned her he could have her followed or her phones tapped. Both said he threatened to kill them if they broke up with him.
Asked for comment before he announced he would resign, Schneiderman, a Democrat, issued a statement saying, "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.''
In a statement earlier Monday night, Schneiderman's ex-wife Jennifer Cunningham defended Schneiderman: "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."
Ed Cox, the chairman of the state Republican Party, had called for Schneiderman to resign after the New Yorker story was published. "It's clear Mr. Schneiderman has no place holding any public office, let alone as the state's highest law enforcement officer," the statement said, in part. "He must resign from office and be held accountable for his crimes. All of his Democratic running-mates on the statewide ticket must join in demanding his removal from office."
Schneiderman has been a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement. He filed a lawsuit in February against movie producer Harvey Weinstein and the Weinstein Co. following an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct, saying the company broke New York law by failing to protect employees from "pervasive sexual harassment, intimidation and discrimination.''
He launched a civil rights probe into the New York City-based company in October after The New York Times and The New Yorker exposed allegations of sexual assault and harassment spanning decades. The company later fired Weinstein.
The women accusing him said seeing him speak out on sexual misconduct issues was part of the impetus in them coming forward.
"This is a man who has staked his entire career, his personal narrative, on being a champion for women publicly,'' Selvaratnam said. "But he abuses them privately. He needs to be called out.''
Schneiderman, who won a state Senate seat representing a Manhattan district in 1998, became attorney general in 2010 and is running for re-election this year. He has a history of recognition for activism on behalf of women's causes, including reproductive rights.
The 63-year-old also has been a longtime critic of President Donald Trump, and had been part of several efforts to push back against some of his actions in the White House, like the rescinding of protection for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Last month, he urged state lawmakers to close a loophole that he said could be used to fight state charges by anyone who has received a federal pardon for similar federal charges.
On Twitter after the allegations were published, Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. slammed the attorney general:
A Republican opponent, Manny Alicandro, had just officially launched his candidacy for state attorney general on Monday. After The New Yorker report was published, Alicandro said, "If true, he is a disgrace and wholly unfit for the role of New York State's chief legal officer. I believe the accusers. He needs to resign his office effective immediately and the New York City Police Department needs to get to work.''
Under the state constitution, a vacancy in the office is filled by the state legislature.
State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he supported Cuomo's call for an investigation. "These are very serious allegations. I support Governor Cuomo's call for a thorough investigation. Based on what has been reported, I believe it will be very difficult for Eric Schneiderman to continue as New York State Attorney General," Heastie, a Democrat, said in a statement.
Democratic candidate for governor Cynthia Nixon praised the women who spoke out, and called for a look into the "culture of silence that protects those in power."
"The descriptions by these brave women of the physical and sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman are sickening. It is the right decision for him to resign immediately. The women who came forward so courageously to tell their stories and spared others from suffering are heroines. The investigation should continue. We need to get to the bottom of the enormous culture of silence that protects those in power. We must continue to work to end this national epidemic," Nixon said in a statement.