Saying the accusations concerning the governor are “serious,” Democratic leaders of the New York State Assembly say the chamber’s Judiciary Committee will have subpoena powers as it begins an impeachment investigation of Governor Andrew Cuomo. The move comes after new allegations, reported in the Albany Times Union, that Cuomo “aggressively groped” a female aide. Five other women have said the governor either sexually harassed or inappropriately touched them.
In a statement, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said that the committee, led by Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Lavine, will have the authority to "interview witnesses, subpoena documents and evaluate evidence, as is allowed by the New York State Constitution." The Speaker says the inquiry "will not interfere with the independent investigation being conducted by Attorney General [Letitia] James."
“Today’s action by the New York state legislature will have no bearing on our independent investigation into these allegations against Governor Cuomo," AG James said in a statement. "Our investigation will continue.”
Cuomo denies he touched anybody inappropriately.
Republicans, who are in the minority in the legislature, were the first to push for impeachment proceedings.
Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay says it’s not only the multiple sexual harassment allegations. He says there is also concern over accusations that the governor and his aides covered up the true number of nursing home deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic, and questions over the safety of the Mario M. Cuomo bridge, which replaced the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River.
“I don’t know what we’re supposed to do as a legislature if we don’t act on this now,” said Barclay.
Barclay says the process would be fair to the governor, because he would be allowed to present his case during an impeachment trial held by the Senate.
The new allegations spurred 59 Democrats in the legislature to write a letter asking for the governor’s immediate resignation. Freshman Democratic Senator John Mannion, of Syracuse, who signed the letter says the accusations, if true, form a disturbing pattern of “predatory” behavior.
Mannion says he’s “open” to the legislature conducting impeachment proceedings and is ready to do his part in the Senate.
“I will do my role as a New York State Senator,” Mannion said.
He says he’d want to hear the evidence and keep an open mind.
“I would want to hear all of it, of course, and that’s where due process comes into play,” Mannion said. “People have rights, and things should be investigated, and evidence presented.”
In another sign of Cuomo’s rapidly dwindling support, the Chair of the State Democratic Party, Jay Jacobs, in a statement, backs the Assembly’s effort. Jacobs, who was chosen by Cuomo to lead the party, says “with the preponderance of these allegations” he agrees that “now is the time for the Legislature to commence its own review of these matters as a part of its Constitutional responsibilities.”
Jacobs also says that he is calling meeting of the Democratic county chairs, to hear what they have to say about the controversy.