By Marina Villeneuve
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) New York’s legislative leaders signaled Wednesday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo could swiftly face an impeachment trial if he doesn’t resign, while a growing number of prosecutors also eyed investigative findings that he sexually harassed at least 11 women.
Cuomo denied that he made any inappropriate sexual advances and insisted the findings didn’t reflect the facts. But while political pressure grew, so did the potential for criminal charges against the third-term Democratic governor.
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.
James’ investigation found that Cuomo had violated civil laws against sexual harassment. Making no conclusions about whether he should be criminally charged, investigators left the door open for local prosecutors to bring cases.
“We are reviewing the deeply disturbing findings,” said Joyce A. Smith, the acting district attorney in Long Island’s Nassau County. She pledged her office would “thoroughly and expeditiously investigate any potential crimes” that happened there.
After James released her report Tuesday, Democrats from the statehouse to the White House called for Cuomo to go, with President Joe Biden saying the governor should resign. But he showed no signs of heeding them, saying that 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 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 Assembly 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.
If the Assembly votes to impeach Cuomo, the state Senate could launch an impeachment trial “in weeks,” Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris told The Associated Press.
Gianaris, a Democrat, said the chamber has been preparing for a potential impeachment trial for months.
“We’ll be ready to go if and when the impeachment articles are sent over,” he said. “It could happen very quickly.”
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.
At least two dozen Assembly Democrats called for impeachment in public statements issued Tuesday, according to a tally compiled by The Associated Press. Some said the Assembly should vote for impeachment now, while others said the chamber should impeach Cuomo if he doesn’t resign.
Assembly Republican Leader Will Barclay urged Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, to convene an emergency special session to vote to impeach Cuomo.
James’ investigation, conducted by two outside lawyers, painted what she called a “clear picture” of a governor who touched or made sexually inappropriate comments to a series of women, many of whom worked for him. One is a state trooper whom Cuomo successfully sought to have assigned to his security detail.
While many of the allegations against Cuomo involve verbal comments, some women have also alleged that he gave them unwanted kisses or touches. One aide said the governor reached under her shirt and groped her breast at the governor’s mansion in Albany.
The governor denied Tuesday that he ever inappropriately touched anyone, said that he never intended harm and cast doubt on the political motivations of investigators, accusers and critics.
To date, Cuomo has rebuffed calls to step down and has moved ahead with plans to run for a fourth term in 2022.