Majority of N.Y. Assembly members support Cuomo ouster

Marina Villeneuve
The Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. — A majority of state Assembly members support beginning impeachment proceedings against Gov. Andrew Cuomo if he doesn’t resign over investigative findings that he sexually harassed at least 11 women, according to an Associated Press count Wednesday.

At least 83 of the body’s 150 members have said publicly or told The AP that they favored initiating the process of ousting the third-term Democratic governor if he doesn’t quit. A simple majority of Assembly members is needed to authorize an impeachment trial.

The tally reflects a governor plunged into a political deep freeze — a Democratic scion who has now lost most, if not all, of his allies in the party establishment, just a year after basking in national attention as the blunt-but-relatable voice of fighting the coronavirus.

Cuomo has denied that he made any inappropriate sexual advances and insisted the findings didn’t reflect the facts. But while political pressure grew, so did the potential for criminal charges against Cuomo.

District attorneys in Manhattan, suburban Westchester and Nassau counties and the state capital of Albany said they asked for investigative materials from the inquiry, overseen by Democratic state Attorney General Letitia James.

Inquiry: James’ investigation found that Cuomo had violated civil laws against sexual harassment. Making no conclusions about whether he should be criminally charged, investigators left the door open for local prosecutors to bring cases.

“We are reviewing the deeply disturbing findings,” said Joyce A. Smith, the acting district attorney in Long Island’s Nassau County. She pledged her office would “thoroughly and expeditiously investigate any potential crimes” that happened there.

After James released her report Tuesday, Democrats from the statehouse to the White House called for Cuomo to go, with President Joe Biden saying the governor should resign. But he showed no signs of heeding them, saying that some episodes described in the report never happened, others were misconstrued or mischaracterized and the whole exercise was tainted.

“Politics and bias are interwoven throughout every aspect of this situation,” he said in a recorded video response.

Assembly Democrats, who lead the chamber, debated virtually for hours Tuesday about whether to impeach the governor now, wait to see whether he resigns or give the Assembly Judiciary Committee time to wrap up its wide-ranging investigation into topics from sexual misconduct to the Cuomo administration’s obfuscation of the total number of nursing home residents who died from COVID-19.

At least 40 of the Assembly members who say they are ready to start impeachment proceedings are Democrats.

If the Assembly votes to impeach Cuomo, the state Senate could launch an impeachment trial “in weeks,” Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris said.

Gianaris, a Democrat, said the chamber has been preparing for a potential impeachment trial for months.

“We’ll be ready to go if and when the impeachment articles are sent over,” he said. “It could happen very quickly.”

The Assembly would need 76 votes to impeach Cuomo and send articles of impeachment to the Senate. The Assembly includes 106 Democrats, 43 Republicans and one independent.