Cuomo impeachment probe accredited by New York Congregation spokesman as allegations of sexual harassment escalate
A billboard urging New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to step down can be seen in Albany, New York, near downtown on March 2, 2021.
Matthew Cavanaugh | Getty Images
The New York Congregation spokesman on Thursday approved an impeachment investigation into alleged wrongdoing of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has been charged with sexual harassment on multiple occasions in the past few weeks.
The probe was activated hours after more than 50 Democratic lawmakers, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the National Organization for Women called for Cuomo's resignation.
Enough members of the Democratic Assembly have joined the call to indict Cuomo, with the assistance of the Republican legislature, if he refuses, as he did last week.
"The reports of allegations against the governor are serious," said spokesman Carl Heastie, who, like Cuomo, is a Democrat.
Heastie, who represents a county in the Bronx, said the congregation's judiciary committee "will have the authority to interview witnesses, subpoena documents, and evaluate evidence as the New York state constitution allows".
"I firmly believe that the member of the Congregation (Charles) Lavine (the chairman of the judiciary) and the members of the committee will conduct a swift, full and thorough investigation."
Only one New York governor has ever been charged: William "Plain Bill" Sulzer, who was removed from office in 1913 on charges of campaign fraud.
Heastie said the Cuomo impeachment investigation will not affect "Attorney General's independent investigation" Letitia James.
James said in her own statement on Heastie's announcement, "The actions of New York lawmakers today will not affect our independent investigation into these allegations against Governor Cuomo."
"Our investigation continues," said James, who hired former Manhattan attorney Joon Kim and employment discrimination attorney Anne Clark to lead the investigation earlier this week.
The developments came a day after an Albany newspaper reported that a Cuomo official accused him of aggressively fumbling around the governor's mansion last year.
A spokesman for the Albany Police Department told the New York Times later Thursday that the department had received a report from a state official on the allegation and that the police have since tried to offer their services to a representative of this woman, "as we do would. " with any other report or incident. "
The spokesman said the referral of the incident did not mean that the police had opened a criminal investigation.
Prior to Wednesday's report, three former Cuomo aides and several other women had accused him of sexual harassment or of making inappropriate comments and physical contact.
The attorneys James hired to investigate the women's allegations on Thursday set up a website at https://www.agindependentinvestigation.com with a voicemail, email address and text number where potential victims could contact take on them.
"It is deeply worrying," said de Blasio, a frequent opponent of Cuomo, during a press conference, referring to the latest allegation.
"The specific claim that the governor called one of his employees, someone over whom he had power, into a private place and then sexually assaulted them is absolutely unacceptable to me," said de Blasio, who is himself a Democrat.
"It's disgusting to me and he can no longer serve as governor."
Christian Nunes, president of the National Association of Women, said in a scathing statement that Cuomo "will not be able to serve as head of state for another day".
"The National Organization for Women (NOW) stands by the brave women who shared the abuse they suffered from Andrew Cuomo, Nunes said." They came forward despite a society that favors the accused over the prosecutor – especially when they are in positions of power. ""
Heastie said in a statement earlier Thursday, "Given the allegations about the governor over the past few weeks, I will meet with members today at a conference on possible ways forward."
Heastie said last week he shared the "sentiment" expressed by Senate majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins after the Democrat asked Cuomo to step down.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said during an interview on ABC's "The View" program: "These women's allegations are very, very worrying. Last night was particularly nasty. You all must his looked in. "
But Schumer stopped asking Cuomo to step down and instead said he had confidence in James, the attorney general, to "turn every stone" on the probe run by a team of private attorneys she appointed week earlier.
At the start of this investigation, a federal criminal investigation aimed at suppressing data on coronavirus-related deaths among nursing home residents by Cuomo aides.
Cuomo, who has repeatedly refused to resign over the past week, denied his adjutant's new groping accusation, just as he had previously denied ever being physically inappropriate with women.
"I've never done anything like this," Cuomo said on Wednesday through a spokesman. He called the claim "gut-wrenching".
The governor had said after the first wave of allegations against him last week: "I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable."
"I was unintentional," said Cuomo, who said he often kissed people, men and women, to greet them.
In a joint letter on Thursday, 59 Democratic members of the State Assembly and the Senate suggested that Cuomo's earlier comments effectively admitted "inappropriate behavior".
As a result, as well as due to the "results of changed data on COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes", the letter says: "He has lost the trust of the public and the state parliament, which makes him ineffective at this time." most urgent need. "
And while the letter's signatories said they were "completely confident" that James could thoroughly investigate the allegations, "In the meantime, the governor must put the people of New York first."
"We have a lieutenant governor (Kathy Hochul) to stand in and lead for the remainder of the term, and this is the best thing for New Yorkers at this critical time."
"It is time for Governor Cuomo to step down," the letter reads.
The number of signatories to this demand accounts for nearly 40% of the Democratic Party's total membership in the Assembly and Senate, where it has a solid majority.
Forty of the letter signers serve in the congregation. If all of these Democrats teamed up with the 43 Republicans in the assembly, they would have seven votes more than the minimum of 76 votes required to indict the governor.
The Albany Times Union reported Wednesday that an aide from Cuomo had told a prosecutor that the governor had called her to his mansion last year "on the obvious pretext that she was helping the governor with a minor technical problem with his cellphone .
"They were alone in Cuomo's private residence on the second floor of the mansion when he closed the door and allegedly reached under her blouse and started petting her," the newspaper reported, citing a source.
"The person who is not empowered to comment publicly said the woman – who is much younger than Cuomo – told the governor to stop," the Times Union reported. "Her more general allegations include that he was often flirtatious with her and that it wasn't the only time he touched her."
Debra Katz, an attorney who represents former Cuomo adviser Charlotte Bennett, said the allegations made by the Times Union "are eerily similar to what Bennett told her".
"Charlotte was called to the Capitol on a Saturday, left in isolation with the governor, and asked to help him with minor technical problems with his phone," said Katz.
"Charlotte reported this behavior and the governor's sexual suggestion to his senior aides, including his special adviser Judith Mogul. In response, these aides did not report Charlotte's claims to the governor's employee relations office as required by law." Lawyer said.
But Katz added, "The governor's sexual harassment reported by Charlotte Bennett was buried by his aides and was never properly investigated. Another young woman was put at risk because of her abilities. The governor's staff had the allegations made by Charlotte Bennett and having assumed serious legal obligations, perhaps this woman would have been spared this sexual assault. "
"That the governor does not deny touching people, but insists that he has never done it inappropriately, shows that he is committed to igniting victims with gas and upholding these lies. This is exactly how abusers work," he said Lawyer.