One day after a report that Governor 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, says the unidentified woman alleges that Cuomo, late last year, asked her to his private residence in the mansion to help him fix his smart phone. According the paper, the woman says 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 say the governor either sexually harassed them or inappropriately touched them, in other encounters.
Cuomo denies that he ever touched anyone inappropriately, and has asked for everyone to withhold judgement until the investigation conducted by Attorney General Letitia James is completed.
But the new allegations spurred 59 Democrats in the legislature 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 says it’s no longer OK to wait until the Attorney General finishes her probe. He says 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.
The leader of the State Senate, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, has already asked for the governor to resign.
Assemblyman John McDonald, a Democrat from Cohoes, did not sign on to the letter. He says while he does not think Cuomo should resign right now, he thinks the governor is too compromised to carry out his duties right now, like negotiating the budget, due at the end of the month. McDonald, speaking outside the Assembly chamber at the Capitol, says 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 says he believes Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul is more than capable of handling budget talks and management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“She’s a very capable, smart individual,” said McDonald “And she’s also an individual who knows enough to surround herself with the right people to help through this process.”
A spokeswoman for Lieutenant Governor Kathy 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 AG James’ team to get to the facts.
Hochul had several public events on her schedule, all virtual, including a Zoom meeting with North Country community leaders. She gave a power point 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 Cuomo’s name.
Republicans, who are in the minority in the legislature, say that if the governor won’t resign, then 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 said the governor would receive “due process” under the impeachment rules.
Democratic Senator Mannion says 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. A spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.