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Cuomo faces hard math as impeachment investigation advances

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks in Albany in

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks in Albany in July. Credit: Getty Images / Jeenah Moon

ALBANY — An overwhelming majority of the 150 members of the State Assembly say Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo should face impeachment if he doesn’t resign, following a report concluding that he sexually harassed 11 women.

Nearly all of New York’s 63 senators already say the Democrat should step down.

If the governor wants to continue to fight to stay in office, he is facing some hard math.

"I don’t see any chance in the State Senate," said Jay Jacobs, state Democratic chairman, on Saturday about Cuomo’s chances to survive a vote in the State Legislature. "In the Assembly, as far as I hear, there is virtually no support."

Cuomo, now in his third term, is facing rapidly growing calls to resign after a report from Attorney General Letitia James that concluded he sexually harassed 11 women, broke multiple state and federal laws and tried to retaliate against one accuser.

The governor has denied any wrongdoing, said some of his words or gestures were misconstrued or misinterpreted and strongly denied that some of the alleged incidents occurred. He has said he won’t be distracted from his continued work as New York’s chief executive.

Sources have said Cuomo still intends to fight to stay in office.

The attorney general's report has fueled resignation calls — including from President Joe Biden, a longtime ally. It also prodded the Assembly to accelerate an impeachment inquiry it began in the winter when the first harassment allegations were made.

The Assembly’s Judiciary Committee, which is overseeing the probe, will meet Monday and has set a Friday deadline for Cuomo to deliver any evidence he wants it to consider.

A number of Democratic supporters in the Assembly had been holding off on their opinion of the governor’s status, saying they would await James investigation, which began five months ago.

But that hesitance has appeared to dissipate.

"There were two camps in the spring: ‘Resign now’ or ‘wait for the report,’" said Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria). "Now there is only one camp because the report is as damning as it could have been."

That seemed clear after the 107 Assembly Democrats called an emergency meeting two hours after the report hit. During the nearly three-hour meeting, not a single lawmaker supported Cuomo, numerous legislators said.

"It is abundantly clear to me that the governor has lost the confidence of the Assembly Democratic majority and that he can no longer remain in office," Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), who once stood out among his colleagues in not calling for Cuomo to resign, said after the meeting.

Heastie said the impeachment investigation, which also covers nursing home deaths amid the pandemic and the governor’s possible use of state personnel to help him produce a memoir that scored a $5.1 book deal, would "move expeditiously."

A vote to impeach — to bring formal charges — against a governor requires a simple majority of at least 76 votes in the Assembly.

At least 90 members already have said publicly Cuomo should be impeached if he doesn’t resign. So the governor would have to change a lot of minds to avoid charges if a vote proceeds.

The Assembly shift could be seen in Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo), who often is regarded by colleagues and officials as one of Cuomo’s strongest allies in the chamber. She told a Buffalo TV station the James report was a "bombshell."

"I honestly do believe he should resign. But I honestly know that he won’t," People-Stokes said. "Because of what this report has said, his ability to continue to deliver good service to the state has been compromised."

An impeachment trial would be held in a joint session of the Senate and the seven-member Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) wouldn’t participate because she is in the line of succession if Cuomo leaves.

That means 62 senators and seven judges would be voting and 46 — a two-thirds majority — would be needed to convict. Fifty-nine senators already have said the governor should resign.

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