If Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo refuses to resign from office, state legislators vow to accelerate impeachment proceedings, possibly making him the first governor removed by the process since 1913.
But even then, removing Cuomo could take up to two months.
State lawmakers said Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, has almost no support in the State Legislature following a report by Attorney General Letitia James that found the governor sexually harassed 11 women and broke multiple state and federal laws in doing so. The report said his administration failed to follow its own policies about reporting sexual harassment claims and tried to retaliate against one of the women.
So far, Cuomo has ignored a growing chorus of political officials and longtime allies — such as the AFL-CIO and State Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs — who say he’s lost the authority to serve and should resign.
If he holds out, lawmakers said they would move to impeach and Cuomo would have little chance of acquittal.
"If the governor wants to put us through this exercise and force us to go through this drama for the next couple of months that's his right to do so I suppose," Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said. "But it seems like we all know where this is heading."
There's only been one New York governor impeached and convicted, William Sulzer in 1913.
During a nearly three-hour emergency meeting Tuesday of Assembly Democrats, none of the 107 members defended the governor, multiple sources said. It wasn’t a question of whether to impeach but how quickly they could do so. The Assembly controls the first step in the process.
"It was overwhelming. Impeach. ASAP," one Democrat told Newsday.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) said the chamber would act "expeditiously."
But it will take a while.
Even if the state Assembly accelerates the process, impeachment could still take six weeks or more, officials said.
The Assembly committee running the impeachment investigation — scheduled to meet Monday — must first complete its findings and recommendations.
Besides the sexual harassment claims, it also has been investigating nursing home deaths and Cuomo’s $5.1 million deal for his pandemic memoir. An Assembly official said the idea the chamber already was "drawing up" impeachment charges was untrue.
Finishing its report would take the committee at least a couple of weeks if not more, sources said. That would push the release toward September, and then the full Assembly would have to vote on charges.
Following that, the Senate couldn’t begin an impeachment trial for at least 30 days after receiving charges from the Assembly. Per law, the Senate would act as jury — along with the seven Cuomo-appointed members of the state Court of Appeals.
That would push the process into October or November — when local elections are taking place — a scenario some Democrats want to avoid, not only for the impact on candidates but also the potential overall drag on the party.
That’s part of why some Democrats were urging Cuomo to step down — for the good of the rest of the party.
At the moment the Assembly impeaches, Cuomo would immediately be barred from exercising any authority as governor, per state law. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul would assume the authority vested in the governor’s office. Cuomo, in that scenario, could regain his powers only upon acquittal by the Senate.
If Cuomo tries to fight through impeachment, he will argue: "We are in a crisis period, COVID is surging, I’m a proven leader in his matter and these allegations are partly over exaggerated for partisan reasons," said Gerald Benjamin, a retired political scientist and longtime New York political observer. "You have a leader in crisis who is proven, and don’t let these ‘left-wing people’ drive solid, accomplished leaders from office."
The problem with that defense, Benjamin said in an interview, is a lack of supporters to help make that case: "He’s got nobody."
With Michael Gormley