Update (1900ET): What has been a terrible day for Andrew Cuomo has just gotten even worse. Moments ago, the New York Times reported that Democratic lawmakers in the State Assembly have opened an impeachment inquiry into Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the surest sign yet that the governor is seeing his party turn against him following the sixth, and most explosive, allegation of sexual harassment.
Following a three-hour emergency meeting, the State Assembly announced Thursday evening that it would give its judiciary committee broad jurisdiction to investigate allegations of misconduct against the longtime governor, who has reigned over the Empire State for a decade already. During what's being described as an official impeachment inquiry, the committee will have broad discretion to investigate Cuomo over the sexual harassment and his administration deliberately underreporting nursing home deaths.
"The reports of accusations concerning the governor are serious," said Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie who added that the "Impeachment investigation” will encompass interviewing witnesses, subpoenaing documents and evaluating evidence. Heastie was among the state Democratic leaders who called on Cuomo to resign Sunday night.
Cuomo has had a rough day, with 59 Democrats in the legislature signing a letter calling on Cuomo to resign.
Previously, Heastie has signaled that he wouldn't move forward with impeachment without a majority of Democrats supporting it. But according to the NYT, the move to empower the committee, which will launch yet another investigation into Cuomo, might signal a shift in the leaders' thinking, and a major turning point.
The convening of a special judicial committee could signal a shift in Mr. Heastie’s thinking, but it could also give him more time to decide whether to proceed with impeachment. It also may give the governor some breathing room in a scandal that has overwhelmed his administration in recent weeks.
Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, has apologized for workplace remarks that he said may have hurt or offended women but has also denied ever touching anyone inappropriately and has urged New Yorkers to await the results of an inquiry by the state attorney general before passing judgment.
Nonetheless, the tumult from the governor’s compounding scandals has significantly complicated negotiations over the state budget, due April 1, when the year’s most important policy issues are decided.
Senate leaders have been in regular contact with leaders in the Assembly about their agenda for the next fiscal year. But the governor’s voice, usually powerful, has been largely absent.
Is it possible we see Cuomo's resignation before the weekend is through?
"I do not believe this governor will resign unless impeachment is on the table," said Assemblyman Phillip G. Steck, a Democrat representing an area near Albany.
At this point, the political pressure opposing the governor and political scion has never been stronger.
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Update (1400ET): AG Letitia James' investigation into the sexual harassment allegations lodged against Cuomo is strictly a professional affair. But following revelations that Cuomo aggressively groped a female staffer under her shirt, Albany Police Department officials said Thursday that they had received a complaint about the governor's actions from a state official.
The concern is that Cuomo's actions may have "risen to the level of a crime," according to Steve Smith, a spokesman for the Albany police, who explained that the department had not received a formal complaint from the woman, who has not been identified, but that it had reached out to a representative for the woman.
News of the criminal referral elicited a strong reaction on social media, as President Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. tweeted "lock him up!" - a humorous reference to a popular chant started by his father and often directed at his erstwhile opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Lock Him Up!!! https://t.co/NFRcI1Mqyi— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) March 11, 2021
🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨 https://t.co/JczJEO7xCH— Comfortably Smug (@ComfortablySmug) March 11, 2021
Police have confirmed via the anonymous woman's lawyer that she didn't want to file a police report. Still, the issue was referred to the police in accordance with various protocols, according to an NYT report.
Mr. Smith said the call had come from the New York State Police. But the governor’s acting counsel, Beth Garvey, said on Thursday that she had called the police on Wednesday night and reported the allegations, after a lawyer for the female aide told the governor’s office that the aide did not want to file a report.
"As a matter of state policy, when allegations of physical contact are made, the agency informs the complainant that they should contact their local police department,” Ms. Garvey said in a statement. “If they decline, the agency has an obligation to reach out themselves and inform the department of the allegation."
"In this case, the person is represented by counsel and when counsel confirmed the client did not want to make a report, the state notified the police department and gave them the attorney’s information," Ms. Garvey added.
While the police department’s actions are part of standard procedure, the situation underscored the potential criminal exposure that the governor may face should the anonymous aide decide to press charges. Cuomo has denied touching anyone inappropriately.
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Earlier this week, the Albany Times-Union, the newspaper of record for New York State's capitol region, reported that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had been sexually inappropriate with a sixth woman - another young woman who was apparently in her 20s when Cuomo made the aggressive pass at her - at the governor's mansion.
Though her name has not been revealed (at least, not yet), the Times Union returned last night with an even more shocking report expounding the details of the encounter. Unlike previous incidents, where Cuomo made an aggressive and inappropriate pass at a staffer or a fellow wedding guest or awkwardly planted a kiss on their cheek, the Times-Union described an encounter where a young woman was lured to the executive mansion (possibly under false pretenses) where she was "aggressively groped" by the governor.
Although the under-the-blouse grope only occurred on one occasion, the young woman accused the governor of frequently engaging in "flirtatious behavior".
The allegations by the female aide, who is the sixth woman to accuse Cuomo of inappropriate behavior, were first reported Tuesday by the Times Union. The additional details describe the most egregious behavior attributed to the governor to date - conduct that could potentially be pursued as a misdemeanor sexual assault charge.
The person briefed on the case, who is not authorized to comment publicly, said the woman - who is much younger than Cuomo - told the governor to stop. Her broader allegations include that he frequently engaged in flirtatious behavior with her, and that it was not the only time that he had touched her.
As the Times-Union recounts, the woman says she was summoned to the governor's mansion with a request to help out with a minor technical issue. The woman's story contradicts Gov. Cuomo's description of his transgressions. During a news conference last week, the governor apologized for his inappropriate behavior, but denied having ever touched a woman inappropriately. Afterwards, at least one of the woman's supervisors reported the incident to a lawyer in the governor's office.
Late on Wednesday, Cuomo finally issued a statement to the newspaper insisting that he had "never done anything like this."
"As I said yesterday, I have never done anything like this. The details of this report are gut-wrenching. I am not going to speak to the specifics of this or any other allegation given the ongoing review, but I am confident in the result of the attorney general’s report."
Despite being asked by the Times-Union about the sixth accuser's account earlier this week, Cuomo told reporters on Tuesday that he wasn't aware of any other accusers.
On Tuesday afternoon, several hours after Cuomo's office had been asked about the matter by the Times Union, the governor said in a news conference, "I'm not aware of any other claim," when he was asked by a reporter about the new story, which by then had been published online. That story included a statement from his acting counsel, Beth Garvey, who said that "all allegations" of sexual harassment made against the governor were being referred to the attorney general's office.
New York AG Letitia James is overseeing a civil investigation into the accusations, and earlier this week appointed two lawyers - including a former top federal prosecutor - to lead the probe. Cuomo insisted that the investigation would vindicate him. His sixth accuser has declined to file a formal complaint about the incident.