New York Governor Andrew Cuomo continues to feel the heat from voters and elected officials from both major parties in the United States after a report released by state Attorney General Letitia James last week accused him of sexually harassing 11 women.
Cuomo, a Democrat, is facing calls to resign by President Joe Biden and top Democrats from around the US – demands Cuomo said he will not heed.
Barring Cuomo stepping down, the state legislature is considering impeachment proceedings on this and a variety of other scandals during his three terms as governor.
Here is what we know so far, and where things could be headed:
What are the accusations against Cuomo?
In December, Lindsey Boylan, a former aide, publicly accused Cuomo of sexual harassment “for years”.
“I hate that some men, like [Cuomo] abuse their power,” she added.
Yes, @NYGovCuomo sexually harassed me for years. Many saw it, and watched.
I could never anticipate what to expect: would I be grilled on my work (which was very good) or harassed about my looks. Or would it be both in the same conversation? This was the way for years.
— Lindsey Boylan (@LindseyBoylan) December 13, 2020
Boylan later detailed her accusations in a blog post, saying Cuomo gave her an unsolicited kiss on the lips in his office, as well as repeatedly made “degrading” sexual remarks.
In February, another former aide, Charlotte Bennett, accused him of sexual harassment.
While she did not allege any physical contact, she described “inappropriate” conversations he initiated that involved questions about her personal life. She said those conversations were the governor “grooming” her for a sexual relationship.
We have the facts. @NYGovCuomo broke federal & state law when he sexually harassed me & other current & former staff. I do not want an apology — I want accountability and an end to victim-blaming. NYS Assembly Speaker @CarlHeastie, it’s time you do the right thing: impeach him.
— Charlotte Bennett (@_char_bennett_) August 3, 2021
James, the state attorney general, appointed independent lawyers on March 8 to investigate these allegations, and the report on those lawyers’ findings was released last Tuesday.
What did the investigation uncover?
In a news conference last week, James said the probe “found that Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed current and former New York State employees by engaging in unwelcome and non-consensual touching and making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women”.
“The independent investigation found that Governor Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, many of whom were young women, by engaging in unwanted groping, kisses, hugging and by making inappropriate comments,” she added.
In total, 11 women accused the governor of harassment and described to investigators a “hostile and toxic work environment”.
Could charges be laid against Cuomo?
James said she would not bring state charges against Cuomo, but the investigation could lead to civil and criminal charges against him.
Brittany Commisso, who was identified as “Executive Assistant #1” in the attorney general’s report, filed a criminal complaint with the Albany County sheriff’s office last week.
She told investigators that Cuomo fondled her breast and also rubbed her backside while she took a selfie with him.
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple told reporters Saturday that his investigators “have a lot of fact-finding to do” but said Commisso’s allegations could ultimately lead to misdemeanor criminal charges.
Meanwhile, Boylan’s lawyer told ABC News last week that her client plans to file a civil lawsuit against Cuomo.
What is Cuomo saying?
Cuomo has continued to steadfastly deny that he sexually harassed anybody and insists he will not step down as governor.
“I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” Cuomo said after the attorney general’s report was released. “That is just not who I am.”
His lawyer Rita Glavin told reporters on Friday that she believed the independent investigation’s conclusions were, in essence, “predetermined”.
“I know the difference between putting together a case against a target versus doing independent fact-finding with an open mind,” Glavin said. “There has been no open-minded fact-finding here in this investigation. This investigation was conducted in a manner to support a predetermined narrative.”
What is the political fallout?
While some had called for Cuomo’s resignation after the first accusations earlier this year, others, such as President Biden, waited for investigators to release their report before passing a firm judgement.
Once the report was made public last week, the floodgates opened. From Biden on down to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a fellow New Yorker, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrats across the country called on Cuomo to quit.
And it seems the public is on their side. A Quinnipiac Poll released on Friday showed 70 percent of New York state voters said Cuomo should resign, including 57 percent of Democratic voters.
Several of Cuomo’s staffers have resigned in the aftermath of the attorney general’s report, including one of his top aides, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, who was found in last week’s report to have covered up for Cuomo and retaliated against his accusers.
Meanwhile, the state assembly is considering impeachment proceedings on the harassment allegations, as well as Cuomo’s handling of the state’s nursing home patients during the COVID-19 pandemic last year, a controversial $5m book deal, and other scandals he has faced during his governorship.
What happens next?
The New York state assembly’s judiciary committee has given Cuomo until Friday to respond to the allegations laid out in the attorney general’s report in addition to other questions they have about his other controversies.
The committee could vote to begin impeachment proceedings soon after that, a process that is expected to culminate in an impeachment vote by the whole assembly next month or in October. If a majority of assembly members vote to impeach, the state senate will convene an impeachment trial 30 to 60 days later.
Many have inquired about the impeachment process in New York State. To ensure that the public has accurate information, here is a summary of the process. pic.twitter.com/8VgC35FZyv
— Joseph A. Griffo (@SenGriffo) August 6, 2021
During the trial, Cuomo would be sidelined from serving as governor and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who is also a Democrat, would step in.
If two-thirds of the state senate voted to convict Cuomo, he would be removed from office and Hochul would finish out the remainder of Cuomo’s term, which ends in December 2022.