Now that New York Attorney General Letitia James has released the damning report of the investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo, things could start moving pretty fast for the man who had one of the highest profiles among Democrats amid the pandemic.
He has remained steadfast in his own defense, either denying the accusations against him or pinning the blame on miscommunications due to cultural or generational differences.
The governor has gotten little to no support from Democrats locally or nationwide, many of whom have considered Cuomo a friend or ally in the past. But now many of those same people are calling him to resign, while others have said impeachment is necessary. And the person in control of bringing impeachment proceedings said that process to strip Cuomo of power could be conducted within a month's time.
Before any of that gets underway, here's a recap of what we know, and what the next steps will be.
What Exactly Was Cuomo Accused of Doing — And Will He Face Criminal Charges?
Nearly a dozen women accused Cuomo of sexual harassment and assault. The public allegations, which started in December and cascaded over the winter, ranged from inappropriate comments to forced kisses and groping.
The report did uncover an allegation that the public was not previously aware of. According to the report, a state trooper on Cuomo’s security detail said Cuomo ran his hand or fingers across her stomach and her back, kissed her on the cheek, asked for her help in finding a girlfriend and asked why she didn’t wear a dress. The report also included an allegation from a woman working for an energy company who said Cuomo touched her chest at an event and brushed his hand between her shoulder and breasts.
More on the Cuomo Allegations
Those allegations, along with the others that were known publicly, were corroborated by the investigation from the attorney general's office, finding that the women were telling the truth about Cuomo's behavior and that Cuomo created a hostile work environment “rife with fear and intimidation.”
Cuomo also allegedly retaliated against one of his accusers who was a former employee. That worker, Lindsey Boylan, was Cuomo's first public accuser. Investigators said Cuomo’s team sent reporters Boylan’s personnel records within hours of Boylan’s December tweet alleging sexual harassment. They also said the governor’s circle circulated a letter that “attacked” Boylan’s alleged work conduct and theorized she was funded by far-right Republicans.
While James made it clear that investigation was civil — not criminal — in nature, it is possible Cuomo could ultimately face charges for what was detailed in the report. Albany District Attorney David Soares said Tuesday that his office is reviewing the report's findings to see whether criminal charges are merited, and encouraged victims to come forward.
"Well, the allegations early on certainly led myself and other prosecutors with concurrent jurisdiction to believe that criminal activity in fact had taken place," Soares said.
James is also investigating into whether Cuomo broke the law in having members of his staff help write and promote his pandemic leadership book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” for which he was set to earn more than $5 million. Federal investigators are also probing the state's handling of data related to nursing home deaths.
Cuomo Told the Public to Wait to Judge Him Until the Investigation Was Complete. Now That It's Done, Does It Look Like He Will Resign?
In a word, no.
For his part, Cuomo came out more defiant than ever, refuting allegations in a taped response and saying “the facts are much different than what has been portrayed” and that he “never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.”
The governor apologized for making staffers feel uncomfortable, but chalked up some of the allegations to misunderstandings caused by generational and cultural differences (he’s Italian American) while flat-out denying the more serious allegations.
Accompanied by multiple slideshows of Cuomo and other politicians embracing members of the public, the governor said the gesture was inherited from his parents and meant to convey warmth. He also said that some of his accusers initiated the hugs.
Cuomo Report Fallout
Cuomo offered a new explanation Tuesday for his interaction with former staffer Charlotte Bennett, who claimed the governor hit on her and questioned her about her sex life. He said that he was trying to help her, because Bennett had experienced sexual assault in the past. He also disclosed for the first time that someone in his family had experienced sexual assault.
He also alleged that the investigation itself was fueled by “politics and bias.” The attorney general has denied having any political motivations for the probe, which was authorized by Cuomo himself, and has not said publicly whether she is interested in running for governor. While her office oversaw the probe, it was conducted by two outside lawyers, Anne Clark and Joon Kim, who spoke with 179 people — including Cuomo.
Despite his fiery rebuke of the report, the governor is facing calls to resign from almost every major Democratic lawmaker — including the one who occupies the highest office in the land.
President Joe Biden — once Cuomo's close ally and a longtime friend — said Tuesday that, while he hadn't read the report, he thought Cuomo should step down.
Both U.S. senators for New York, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, say he should resign. So does U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, along with the governors of neighboring New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut — who have worked closely with Cuomo for years, especially since the start of the pandemic, but released a joint letter calling him him to resign.
Countless Democrats both in New York and nationwide have echoed that sentiment, but it doesn't appear to have shaken Cuomo's insistence on staying in office.
If He Doesn't Resign, What Happens Next for Cuomo?
Well, if it were California, there might be a recall vote (like the one Gov. Gavin Newsome is facing). New York does not have that option, however, but Cuomo could face impeachment instead.
The state Assembly has the power to bring impeachment charges against Cuomo and aims to wrap up its own probe “as quickly as possible,” according to Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat who said it was clear Cuomo could no longer remain in office.
New York impeachments start in the Assembly, and if a majority of members vote to impeach Cuomo, the matter moves to the Impeachment Court. In this case, that court would comprise the state Senate — minus its majority leader — and the seven judges of the state's highest court. Two-thirds of the court would need to vote to convict to remove Cuomo.
If Cuomo were to face an impeachment trial, he would temporarily no longer be in charge of the state. Instead, 62-year-old lieutenant governor Kathy Hochul would become acting governor for the duration of the trial. If he is convicted in the impeachment trial, then he would be removed from office and Hochul would become New York's 57th governor.
How Long Might It Take to Impeach the Governor?
According to a source involved with the impeachment process in Albany, it could take a month for the Assembly to complete its inquiry and draw up the Articles of Impeachment against Cuomo. Breaking down that period of time further, drafting the Articles themselves could take between 5 and 7 days.
The articles would then have to be voted on in the Assembly, and should the Articles of Impeachment pass through that legislative body, they would be sent to the state Senate for trial. At that stage, witnesses would be introduced, and Cuomo would have the right to defend himself — if he chose to do so.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who controls the governor's impeachment probe, said the "gut-wrenching" findings in the report "would indicate someone who is not fit for office." State Democrats convened for much of Tuesday afternoon to discuss the report's revelations and next steps.
The state Assembly has the power to bring impeachment charges against Cuomo and aims to wrap up its own probe “as quickly as possible,” according to Heastie. The Assembly could theoretically vote to launch impeachment proceedings before the probe is finished.
What If Cuomo Doesn't Resign And Isn't Ousted Via Impeachment — Do Voters Get a Say?
Yes, but not until 2022, when all signs had pointed to Cuomo running for a fourth term as governor, which he already had begun fundraising for.
Some polling earlier this year suggested the public's support for Cuomo had slipped, but not dramatically so. No other Democrats have officially issued a primary challenge. On the Republican side, possible opponents include U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin and Andrew Giuliani, son of Rudy.
Will Cuomo Go On His Brother's Television Show to Talk About the Scandal?
Probably not. The governor’s brother, Chris Cuomo, is a CNN anchor. The fraternal duo — sons of the late Gov. Mario Cuomo — grabbed headlines in the early days of the pandemic for their banter on the younger Cuomo’s primetime show, but Chris Cuomo has since been barred from covering his brother. Tuesday's report also detailed how Chris Cuomo advised his older brother.