He was a self-styled pandemic hero, purporting to fill a leadership void left by Donald Trump. Even as that myth began to crumble, he still seemed unlikely to lose his grip on power. But a new misconduct allegation, one that has reportedly been referred to Albany police, has put Andrew Cuomo’s governorship in even greater peril, with a majority of New York state legislators calling for his resignation, and Democrats opening an impeachment investigation into the man who had been, just last summer, a party star. “The reports of accusations concerning the governor are serious,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a statement authorizing Judiciary Chair Charles Lavine’s probe Thursday. “I have the utmost faith that Assemblymember Lavine and the members of the committee will conduct an expeditious, full and thorough investigation.”
Cuomo has been at the center of two massive scandals—one for apparently covering up the real toll of COVID-19 on New York nursing home residents, and one for alleged sexual harassment and misconduct. As he faced scrutiny from New York Attorney General Leticia James and others over nursing home deaths, several women came forward to accuse the governor of unwanted advances and inappropriate behavior. He denied wrongdoing, vowing not to resign and digging in his heels. But an explosive new accusation this week may have changed the calculus: A current aide to Cuomo told the Albany Times-Union that he summoned her to the executive mansion in late 2020 and groped her underneath her blouse in the second-floor residence. The allegation, the most serious to date, has been referred to Albany police, marking the first time an accusation against Cuomo has resulted in potential legal exposure. As in the other alleged incidents, Cuomo has adamantly denied the accusation. “I have never done anything like this,” he said.
But the new allegation opened the floodgates wider. The chorus of state lawmakers demanding his resignation grew to more than 120. “All of us are extremely disappointed,” Democratic Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther told the Associated Press. “I think there’s no room in the world right now for that kind of behavior.” It also triggered the impeachment investigation and is yet another item on Tish James’ radar. “Our investigation will continue,” the AG said.
For now, Cuomo’s ability to remain in power seems to depend, at the very least, on his existing scandals remaining in check. Already, though, there’s been more fuel added to the fire: The Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday that his office had called at least half a dozen former employees in what felt to the former staffers like an attempt to pressure them into discrediting one of his early sexual-harassment accusers. “I felt intimidated,” Ana Liss, a former aide who received one of the calls in December and has since accused Cuomo of inappropriate behavior, told the paper. “And I felt bewildered.” If true, that outreach would seem to reflect the very bullying culture that has now led to dueling investigations, and could make his defiance untenable. “It would be a much smoother operation,” one Democrat told Politico, “if [Cuomo] just exited stage left.”
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