The walls are closing in on scandal-scarred Governor Andrew Cuomo. President Joe Biden has called for his resignation and support for him in the state’s Democratic party has collapsed. The impeachment inquiry in the Assembly is wrapping up. After releasing a pre-recorded response to Attorney General Letitia James’ explosive report on Tuesday, the governor has been silent, with no public schedule. Despite the calls to step down, there is no indication, yet, that Cuomo plans to resign. How did we get here and what happens next? Here’s what we know so far.
What’s In The Report?
The attorney general’s report paints a damning picture, corroborating the stories of 11 women who were sexually harassed by Cuomo, with contemporaneous emails, texts and interviews with parties who witnessed the behavior or learned about it shortly after it occurred. The report also documents how senior staffers in Cuomo’s orbit took painstaking measures to cover up that abuse, and how the hostile work environment created conditions where sexual harassment was tolerated and normalized.
We’ve parsed through its 165 pages and hundreds of pieces of attached evidence—here are five key takeaways from that report.
What Was Cuomo’s Reaction?
As he had in the past, Cuomo denied the most severe allegations, apologized for making people uncomfortable, but insisted he did nothing wrong. He also again suggested that the report and the women who spoke up were politically motivated. His pre-recorded comments included a slideshow of him and other high-ranking politicians hugging and kissing people, and he again used his Italian upbringing as a defense.
His private attorney, who he is paying from campaign funds, prepared her own report; although it failed to account for some of the new evidence against the governor, such as changing state requirements so that a specific state trooper could be assigned to his personal detail.
The trooper told investigators that the governor made a series of sexualized comments and rubbed his finger over her body on two occasions. Some of that was witnessed in real time by other state troopers, and the report found her account credible. Cuomo has not appeared publicly since the report’s release, though the New York Post found Cuomo was sitting by the pool Thursday afternoon at the Executive Mansion.
Will He Resign?
Even President Biden has called for Cuomo’s resignation, and most of his remaining allies in the state legislature have done so as well. But Jay Jacobs, the head of New York’s Democratic Party and a previously staunch ally of Cuomo’s, doesn’t think he will. Jacobs spoke to Cuomo over the course of several conversations Wednesday and called for his resignation publicly after being convinced the Governor would not step down voluntarily.
Will He Be Impeached?
If Cuomo refuses to leave, it’s very likely state lawmakers will vote to impeach him. But that process is likely to take weeks, if not months. The Assembly Judiciary Committee’s impeachment inquiry into Cuomo is “nearing completion,” and the committee’s attorneys gave Cuomo until 5 p.m. on August 13th to send in evidence backing up his case.
In response, Rich Azzopardi, senior advisor to the governor, issued a statement late Thursday: “The Assembly has said it is doing a full and thorough review of the complaints and has offered the Governor and his team an opportunity to present facts and their perspective. The Governor appreciates the opportunity. We will be cooperating.”
Members of the committee have said they want to draft articles based on the AG’s report but also potentially based on their own investigation—which involves other areas, including the governor’s handling of nursing home deaths and his book deal—which is not yet complete.
Some lawmakers estimate drafting and voting on the articles could occur by the end of August or in early September, at which point, there’s a 30-day window before any trial process in the state senate could begin, pushing the timeline back well into the fall. A simple majority of the Assembly has to vote in favor of impeachment in order to move to a trial in the Senate.
Then a trial is held in which all 63 state senators as well as seven judges from the state’s Court of Appeals act as the jury. Two-thirds of them have to vote to convict Cuomo for the impeachment to stick.
If impeached, Cuomo cannot run again for state office.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the governor had “lost the confidence of the Assembly Democratic majority and that he can no longer remain in office.”
What Happens If Cuomo Gets Impeached?
As soon as the Assembly votes on articles of impeachment, even before the case goes to trial in the State Senate, Cuomo would be forced out of office. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul is in line to take over for him as acting governor if that occurs. She would be the first woman to hold the post, even temporarily. Who is she? What does she stand for?
What Other Consequences Could Cuomo And His Inner Circle Face?
Several district attorneys from counties including Manhattan, Nassau, Westchester, and Albany are exploring potential criminal charges against Cuomo for instances of sexual assault and harassment that occurred in their jurisdictions, as outlined in the AG’s report.
Cuomo and his inner circle are also likely to face a barrage of civil suits. Lindsey Boylan already has indicated her intent to sue Cuomo and his top aides, according to her attorney Jill Basinger. The AG report outlines instances of unlawful retaliation against Boylan after she came forward on Twitter to say Cuomo sexually harassed her. The report describes how top aides leaked confidential personnel files to the media in an effort to discredit her.
But lest we forget, the attorney general’s sexual harassment inquiry was just one of several probes further imperiling Cuomo’s political future. The federal government still has its inquiry into Cuomo’s withholding of the deaths of nursing home residents. And there’s another potential criminal probe from the attorney general’s office about his $4 million book deal.