Cuomo’s lawyers say AG report contains ‘inaccuracies’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

New York lawmakers in the state Assembly will work swiftly to complete the chamber’s months-long impeachment probe to remove Gov. Andrew Cuomo from office, legislators said, as the state and nation’s top political leaders renewed calls for the scandal-embroiled governor to resign.

President Joe Biden, a longtime political ally and friend to the governor, called for Cuomo to resign Tuesday after state Attorney General Letitia James’ office released a 168-page report earlier in the day concluding a five-month probe that found the governor sexually harassed multiple women, breaking state and federal laws.

“I think he should resign,” Biden said, echoing calls made earlier by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, all Democrats.

Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, both D-N.Y., also repeated their call for Cuomo to resign Tuesday. The state federal leaders originally called for the governor to step down March 12 after a January attorney general report that found Cuomo and his administration intentionally underreported COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes by up to 55%, and multiple women came forward against him with allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.

“As we have said before, the reported actions of the governor were profoundly disturbing, inappropriate and completely unacceptable,” Schumer and Gillibrand said in a joint statement Tuesday. “Today’s report from the New York state attorney general substantiated and corroborated the allegations of the brave women who came forward to share their stories — and we commend the women for doing so.

“The New York state attorney general has conducted an independent, thorough and professional investigation that found the governor violated state and federal law, had a pattern of sexually harassing current and former employees, retaliated against at least one of the accusers and created a hostile work environment,” the continued. “No elected official is above the law. The people of New York deserve better leadership in the governor’s office. We continue to believe that the governor should resign.”

Democrats in the Assembly Majority Conference convened about the report and the conference’s next steps at 2 p.m. Tuesday. Legislators met and discussed their support to impeach Cuomo for several hours.

“After our conference this afternoon to discuss the attorney general’s report concerning sexual harassment allegations against Gov. Cuomo, 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, said in a statement. “Once we receive all relevant documents and evidence from the attorney general, we will move expeditiously and look to conclude our impeachment investigation as quickly as possible.”

Heastie stopped short of calling on the governor to resign this spring.

State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, was the highest-ranking state Democratic lawmaker to request the governor’s resignation in March. The report proves his unacceptable conduct, she said Tuesday.

“Now that the investigation is complete and the allegations have been substantiated, it should be clear to everyone that he can no longer serve as governor,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. “Our highest elected offices must reflect the values and integrity that​ they profess and​ New Yorkers hold dear. I thank the attorney general and her investigators for their thorough investigation.​ I also wanted to give a special thank you to the courageous women who bravely stepped forward to shed light on this awful situation. We all owe them a debt of gratitude.”

Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay, R-Pulaski, sent a letter to Heastie on Tuesday urging the speaker to convene an emergency special session to vote to impeach Cuomo.

“While the Assembly has undertaken its own impeachment investigation, the details revealed by the attorney general and independent investigators are too appalling to ignore and warrant swift and decisive action,” Barclay said in the letter. “In short, Andrew Cuomo has lost the trust and credibility needed to lead this state. His defiant response today indicates he has no intention of accepting responsibility for his actions. It is now up to the Assembly to ensure accountability is forthcoming.”

Chairman Charles Lavine, D-Glen Cove, is leading the 21-member Assembly Judiciary Committee impeachment probe into the governor for a myriad of accusations.

Attorneys from Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, who the state hired to conduct the impeachment investigation, are next scheduled to meet with the Judiciary Committee on Aug. 9.

An impeachment resolution must be passed by a simple 76-vote majority in the state Legislature, which would force the governor to resign. The 150-member state Assembly has 107 Democratic and 43 Republican members.

If passed, the Assembly speaker would draw up articles of impeachment and deliver them to the state Senate, which would hold a trial to convict the governor.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, would take over leading the state after articles of impeachment are delivered, which would force Cuomo to step aside.

“Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any workplace, and certainly not in public service,” Hochul said in a statement Tuesday. “The attorney general’s investigation has documented repulsive and unlawful behavior by the governor towards multiple women. I believe these brave women and admire their courage coming forward. No one is above the law. Under the New York Constitution, the Assembly will now determine the next steps.

“Because lieutenant governors stand next in the line of succession,” she added, “it would not be appropriate to comment further on the process at this moment.”

Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Plattsburgh, called on Cuomo to resign and for his chamber to move forward with the next steps to remove the governor from office.

“It was appalling to read what I have read — it’s just a sad day,” Jones said Tuesday in response to the report. “My thoughts go out to the women who were subjected to work in that environment and that workplace. Nobody should have to deal with that, let alone in our state government and at the highest levels of our state government. We have to instill confidence in our residents and in people who work in state government that we are going to do the right thing.

“Our Judiciary Committee is leading a separate investigation,” he added, “and they have been moving that forward, but with this evidence that we heard today from this investigation, I would say that we need to continue to move forward as expeditiously as possible and get to a place where we vote for removal.”

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli repeated his plea for Cuomo to resign, and echoed Jones’ sentiments that Tuesday marked a sad day in state history.

“This is a sad day for New York,” DiNapoli said. “The attorney general’s report documents unacceptable workplace behavior in the Executive Chamber at the highest level of state leadership. The women who came forward are courageous, and they have been heard. As I stated months ago, the governor should step down.”

State Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, commended James and her team for refusing to be intimidated by Cuomo and his administration.

“Years ago, I pushed for a constitutional amendment that would ensure unethical elected officials wouldn’t be able to cash in on their state pension,” he added. “Cuomo’s conduct rises to that level and then some. My hope is that he doesn’t see a dime of the public pension he doesn’t deserve and that he resigns immediately so that our state can move forward free of his bullying, manipulative and unethical behavior.”

Tribune News Service contributed to this report.

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