ALBANY, N.Y. (WWNY) - The Democratic majority in the state Assembly agreed Thursday to launch an investigation into Governor Cuomo, an investigation which could lead to Cuomo’s impeachment.
The investigation will be run by the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee.
In a statement, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said “The reports of accusations concerning the governor are serious. The committee will have the authority to interview witnesses, subpoena documents and evaluate evidence, as is allowed by the New York State Constitution.”
Heastie said he expects “an expeditious, full and thorough investigation.”
The decision to launch an investigation followed by less than a day a report that Cuomo fondled a female aide during an encounter at the executive mansion. Cuomo has denied the accusation, but officials with the Cuomo administration turned information about the incident over to Albany police.
A lawyer for the governor said Thursday that she reported the allegation to Albany police after the woman involved declined to do so herself.
“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,” said Beth Garvey, the governor’s acting counsel.
Attorney General Letitia James already has an investigation into complaints of sexual harassment against Cuomo. In a statement Thursday night, James said “Today’s action by the New York state legislature will have no bearing on our independent investigation into these allegations against Governor Cuomo. Our investigation will continue.”
In all, six women have accused Cuomo of unwanted sexual attention. But it was the most recent claim, that Cuomo fondled an aide, which seemed to spur the Assembly to action. Roughly 60 Democratic members of the Assembly and state Senate called Thursday for Cuomo to resign, prompting a meeting Thursday of Assembly Democrats.
“In light of the Governor’s admission of inappropriate behavior and the findings of altered data on nursing home COVID-19 deaths he has lost the confidence of the public and the state legislature, rendering him ineffective in this time of most urgent need,” the letter from legislators said. “It is time for Governor Cuomo to resign.”
Cuomo has repeatedly said he won’t resign and urged the public to await the outcome of the attorney general’s investigation. Nonetheless, Thursday’s decision to investigate Cuomo showed how quickly his fortunes have changed, and suggest his grip on power in Albany - ironclad for years - is slipping.
The Albany Times-Union reported Thursday night that the Assembly investigation will include both the allegations of sexual harassment, and accusations the Cuomo administration under-counted nursing home deaths from COVID-19.
Republicans greeted news of the investigation warily.
“The Committee on Judiciary’s investigation cannot be used as a mechanism to buy more time,” said Will Barclay, the state assemblyman from Pulaski who leads Republicans in the Assembly.
“An impeachment investigation is a significant step. But, Assembly Democrats must acknowledge that time is of the essence and that time has run out on Andrew Cuomo.,” he said.
Assemblymen Ken Blankenbush says he is happy Democrats are on board with the impeachment investigation, but he says the governor should resign before it gets that far.
“The confidence of the governor for the people and the Legislature is now to the point where it would probably be better for the people in the state of New York for him to be stepping down,” Blankenbush said.
In New York, the Assembly is the legislative house that could move to impeach Cuomo, with a trial being held in the state Senate - a process similar, though not identical, to impeachment of a president.
In all, at least 121 members of the state Assembly and Senate have said publicly they believe Cuomo should quit office now, according to a tally by The Associated Press. The count includes 65 Democrats and 56 Republicans.
Cuomo’s support in the state Senate was especially thin. Roughly two thirds of its members have called for the Democrat’s resignation, including Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
Impeachment is exceedingly rare in New York state - only one governor has been impeached. If the Assembly voted to impeach Cuomo, he would be required to step aside while his trial was being conducted and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul would be in charge.
- Additional reporting by the Associated Press