One day after a report that Gov. Andrew Cuomo “aggressively groped” a female aide when she was summoned to the executive mansion, more state lawmakers are putting pressure on the governor to resign, or to at least step aside while the charges are investigated.
The incident has been referred to the Albany Police Department, according to the New York Times.
The report, in the Albany Times Union, said the unidentified woman alleged that Cuomo, late last year, asked her to his private residence in the mansion to help him fix his smartphone. According to the paper, the woman said the governor closed the door and allegedly reached under her blouse and began to inappropriately touch her.
The governor’s counsel reported the incident to the Albany Police Department after the alleged victim declined to do so.
Five other women also said the governor either sexually harassed them or inappropriately touched them in other encounters.
Cuomo denied that he ever touched anyone inappropriately and has asked for everyone to withhold judgment until the investigation conducted by Attorney General Letitia James is completed.
But the new allegations spurred 59 Democrats in the State Legislature to write a letter asking for the governor’s immediate resignation.
Freshman Democrat John Mannion of Syracuse, who signed the letter, says the accusations, if true, form a disturbing pattern of behavior.
“This pattern is predatory,” Mannion said. “And it is distracting.”
He said it’s no longer OK to wait until the attorney general finishes her probe. He said in addition to the sexual harassment charges, the governor and his aides are also under federal investigation for potentially covering up nursing home death numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Right now, where we are, is very troubling,” Mannion said.
State Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has already asked for the governor to resign.
Assemblyman John McDonald, a Democrat from Cohoes, did not sign the letter. He said while he does not think Cuomo should resign right now, he thinks the governor is too compromised to carry out his duties, like negotiating the budget, due at the end of the month. McDonald, speaking outside the Assembly chamber at the Capitol, said the governor should step aside while the investigation continues.
“If it was anybody else, any other employee in this building that was not an elected official, they would immediately be put out on administrative leave,” McDonald said.
McDonald said he believes Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul is more than capable of handling budget talks and management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“She’s a very capable, smart individual,” McDonald said. “And she’s also an individual who knows enough to surround herself with the right people to help through this process.”
A spokeswoman for Hochul, when asked to comment about the evolving situation, referred back to Hochul’s statement from earlier in the week. It said that Hochul wants the attorney general’s investigation to play out before any more steps are taken and that she has confidence in James’ team to get to the facts.
Hochul had several public events, all virtual, on her schedule Thursday, including a Zoom meeting with North Country community leaders. She gave a PowerPoint presentation on the governor’s goals for the state, and talked about an upcoming annual sporting competition that the governor has run in the Adirondacks. But she did not once mention Andrew Cuomo’s name.
Republicans, who are in the minority in the Legislature, said if the governor won’t resign, impeachment proceedings should begin. Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay wants to see an impeachment resolution voted on in the chamber.
“I don’t know what we’re supposed to do as a Legislature if we don’t act on this now,” said Barclay, who added the governor would receive “due process” under the impeachment rules.
Mannion said he’s “open” to the Legislature conducting impeachment proceedings and is ready to do his part in the Senate, where senators would serve as jurors in an impeachment trial.
Cuomo did not make any public appearances Thursday.