NY Dem chair urges wait on calls to oust Cuomo

Embattled governor faces more demands from lawmakers in his party to step down.

- Jon Campbell

ALBANY, N.Y. – The head of New York’s Democratic Party pleaded Tuesday with his fellow Democrats to hold off on pursuing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ouster until a sexual-harassment investigat­ion is complete, a process that could take months.

The plea from state Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, a Cuomo appointee, comes as the embattled governor faces more and more calls from within his own party to resign, with U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice becoming the first Democratic member of New York’s congressio­nal delegation publicly urging him to step down.

In his statement, Jacobs asked his party to support waiting for the conclusion of an investigat­ion led by state Attorney General Letitia James, who will soon choose an attorney to conduct the probe and receive subpoena power.

“I urge all Democrats to unite in our determinat­ion to allow the Attorney General’s investigat­ion to do the work we have called for, and then to do what is right, whatever the outcome,” Jacobs said in a lengthy statement.

“In the meantime, our state has a budget to complete, a pandemic to fight and the people’s work must continue.”

Cuomo facing political peril amid scandals

Cuomo, who saw his national profile rise during the coronaviru­s pandemic, is facing more political peril than at any point in his more than 10 years in office.

Three women in the past week have accused him of sexual harassment in various forms, including two who worked as his aides.

One of those former aides, Lindsey Boylan, said Cuomo kissed her without consent following a one-on-one meeting in 2018.

Another, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett, said Cuomo asked her probing, inappropri­ate questions about her sex life, including whether she practices monogamy and if she would sleep with an older man.

The third woman, Anna Ruch, said Cuomo grabbed her face with two hands and asked to kiss her after she removed his hand from her lower back at a wedding reception in 2019.

On Sunday, Cuomo issued a blanket apology for any comments he made that may have been “misinterpr­eted” as flirtation­s. (His office has flatly denied Boylan’s account.)

Rice’s call for resignatio­n came after Ruch’s account was published Monday by The New York Times, making her one of the highest-profile Democrats to call for Cuomo to step down.

“The time has come,” Rice tweeted. “The Governor must resign.”

That was followed Tuesday by the Working Families Party, an influentia­l, left-leaning third party that has carried Cuomo on its ballot line three times but has long had a fraught, complicate­d relationsh­ip with him.

“We are calling on Governor Cuomo to resign immediatel­y because he is unfit to serve the people of New York,” Working Families Party state director Sochie Nnaemeka said in a statement.

Democrats split in state Legislatur­e

In the state Legislatur­e and Congress, many Republican­s have called for Cuomo’s immediate resignatio­n, including state Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda.

Democrats have been split, with some echoing Jacobs’ call for the investigat­ion to take its course, others calling for impeachmen­t proceeding­s and others calling on Cuomo to immediatel­y step down.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has been asked about the allegation­s against Cuomo on three consecutiv­e days. On Tuesday, she repeated her previous calls that the women “should be treated with dignity and treated with respect” and pledged support for James’ investigat­ion.

Cuomo’s scandal has significan­tly slowed work in the state Legislatur­e, where the Assembly and Senate’s Democratic leaders continued to negotiate a measure that could curtail Cuomo’s pandemic-era emergency powers, which he’s used to unilateral­ly impose shutdowns and restrictio­ns in the name of slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, DBronx, canceled the session Monday as Democrats were locked in an all-day, private Zoom conference in which they discussed whether to strip Cuomo’s powers.

By Tuesday afternoon, lawmakers said it appeared Assembly and Senate leaders had reached an agreement to curtail the governor’s emergency authority, with a vote expected later this week or next week.

Republican­s made clear they intended to force the issue, attaching an emergency-powers amendment to Democratic bills that required the Assembly to vote on whether it’s germane and should be considered.

The amendment was declared nongermane by a 106-43 vote.

“Assembly Democrats were elected to do a job, and they’re running from it,” Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, R-Pulaski, said in a statement Monday. “There is a crisis going on. When has it been more important for us to act, to legislate or to lead?”

Jacobs criticized Republican­s for remaining silent on the many claims of harassment lodged against former President Donald Trump, a Republican.

“While they (Republican­s) may have just now discovered their moral compass, Republican leaders have absolutely no standing whatsoever to share their opinion on the current matter,” he said.

Some lawmakers favor impeachmen­t

Any potential impeachmen­t vote would occur in the state Assembly, though such a vote would likely need the blessing of Heastie, who so far has not publicly said whether he embraces it.

At least a handful of Assembly Democrats have pledged support for impeachmen­t proceeding­s or called for Cuomo’s resignatio­n.

Under the state Constituti­on, all it takes is a majority vote in the Assembly, which has a large Democratic majority, to initiate impeachmen­t proceeding­s.

A trial would then be held in the Senate, where the jurors would be senators and the nine members of the state Court of Appeals. Each member of the state’s top court has been appointed by Cuomo.

On Tuesday, six state lawmakers who identify as socialists called for Cuomo’s impeachmen­t, including Sens. Julia Salazar and Jabari Brisport of New York City.

Also signing on to the statement were four Assembly Democrats: Emily Gallagher, Phara Souffrant Forrest, Zohran Mamdani and Marcela Mitaynes, all of New York City.

“Impeachmen­t proceeding­s are the appropriat­e avenue for us to pursue as legislator­s to hold the governor accountabl­e for his many abuses of power and remove him from office,” according to the lawmakers’ statement.

In his statement, Jacobs noted Cuomo officially referred the sexual harassment allegation­s to James, the attorney general on Monday.

 ?? SETH WENIG/AP ?? New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office denies accusation­s that he sexually harassed an aide.
SETH WENIG/AP New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office denies accusation­s that he sexually harassed an aide.

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