The Mercury News

Majority of N.Y. Assembly would oust Cuomo if he doesn’t quit

- By Marina Villeneuve and Jennifer Peltz

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 86 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. It takes a simple majority 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 a blunt-but-relatable voice of fighting the coronaviru­s.

Cuomo denies making any inappropri­ate sexual advances and insists the findings don’t reflect the facts. But while political pressure is growing, so is 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. The inquiry found that Cuomo — a former state AG himself — violated civil laws against sexual harassment, and it left the door open for local prosecutor­s to bring cases.

Joyce A. Smith, Nassau County’s acting district attorney, called the findings “deeply disturbing” and pledged her office would “thoroughly and expeditiou­sly investigat­e.”

After James released her report Tuesday, Democrats from the statehouse to the White House called for Cuomo to go. President Joe Biden said the governor should resign, though press secretary Jen Psaki wouldn’t say Wednesday whether Biden wanted to see Cuomo removed from office.

“The president believes Governor Cuomo should do the right thing, resign, and leave space for future leadership in New York,” Psaki said.

One of the governor’s closest allies, New York Democratic Party chairperso­n Jay Jacobs, declared that Cuomo “has lost his ability to govern, both practicall­y and morally.” Jacobs told Spectrum News he had tried privately to persuade Cuomo to resign but “wasn’t making headway.”

Cuomo showed no signs of heeding such messages. He said 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 Tuesday 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 Judiciary Committee time to wrap up its wide-ranging investigat­ion into topics from sexual misconduct to the Cuomo administra­tion’s monthslong obfuscatio­n of the total number of nursing home residents who died from COVID-19.

At least 40 Democrats back starting impeachmen­t proceeding­s if Cuomo doesn’t leave on his own.

As New York became the nation’s deadliest coronaviru­s hotspot in spring 2020, Cuomo’s daily briefings garnered him fans around the country and an Internatio­nal Emmy Award. Casting himself as a toughminde­d yet compassion­ate leader who steered the state through crisis, the governor even wrote a book about it.

Now, that book itself is among the focuses of investigat­ions into Cuomo, with James examining the role some of his aides played in producing it.

The 150-member 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.

Assembly Republican Leader Will Barclay urged Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, to convene an emergency special session to vote to impeach Cuomo.

If the Assembly votes to impeach, the state Senate could launch an impeachmen­t trial in weeks, Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris told The Associated Press. He said the chamber has been preparing for months.

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

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