New York (AP) – After an official investigation found New York Governor Andrew Cuomo guilty of sexually harassing several women, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives has announced a speedy impeachment trial.
“It has become more than clear to me that the governor has lost the confidence of the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and that he can no longer remain in office,” Democrat Carl Heastie said after meeting his colleagues. “Once we have the necessary documents and evidence from the Attorney General, we will act quickly and complete our impeachment inquiry as soon as possible.”
Clear words from Biden
US President Joe Biden had previously asked the governor to resign. “I think he should step down,” Democrat Biden said at his party colleague’s White House.
It is very unusual for the US president to ask a legally elected governor to resign – especially if he belongs to the same party. Biden, however, had already been highly critical of the allegations against Cuomo in March. When asked if Cuomo should step down if the investigation confirmed the allegations, Biden said at the time: “Yes.” Women need “a lot of courage” to make such accusations public, Biden said. They should therefore be taken very seriously and the allegations carefully investigated, Biden said at the time.
Earlier, an investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James concluded that Cuomo allegedly abused several women.
“Disturbing but clear picture”
179 witnesses were interviewed for the investigation and some 7,400 pieces of evidence were examined, James said at a news conference. This resulted in “a very disturbing but clear picture” of a “disturbing pattern of behaviour” from the governor. These included unwanted touches, kisses, hugs and inappropriate comments. In addition, Cuomo created a “hostile work atmosphere” and a “climate of fear” for women. The allegations mainly come from 11 women. “I believe these women, and I thank them for their courage,” James said.
Your work was done with that, the attorney general said. “The report speaks for itself.” It was a civil investigation that would not automatically lead to criminal consequences – even if those could arise separately based on the published evidence. “The next steps lie with the governor, with parliament and with the public.”
Cuomo speaks out
Cuomo again dismissed the allegations via video message shortly after the press conference. “The facts are very different from what they are presented here,” the governor said. “I want you to hear directly from me that I have never touched or approached anyone inappropriately. I am 63 years old. I have spent my entire adult life in the public eye. It’s just not who I am, or who I’ve ever been.”
Cuomo again apologized to some women. He just wanted to help and express gratitude and friendship. He takes responsibility and wants to bring about changes. For example, he hired an expert to train his entire team. In the video message, Cuomo did not comment on a possible resignation, which party comrades had repeatedly asked for. He also reiterated his response to the investigation in an 85-page report from his lawyer, which he published on Tuesday.
Cancellation requirements also from your own party
Immediately after the report was published, demands were again made for the resignations of members of both parties – including by the majority leader of Democrats in the US Senate, Chuck Schumer. “The people of New York deserve better leadership,” Schumer said along with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Both represent New York State in the United States Senate. The investigation against Cuomo was “thorough and professional” and had proved the allegations. “No politician is above the law”.
The allegations of harassment of several women against Cuomo became public earlier this year. The 63-year-old apologized for possible “misinterpretations” of his behavior, but dismissed all accusations and adamantly refused to resign several times. Members of their own Democratic Party had also asked for it. The allegations are reminiscent of sexual harassment cases in the wake of #MeToo, a move Cuomo once publicly praised.
Attorney General James opened an investigation in March. US President Joe Biden had expressed his support for the investigation through his spokeswoman. Cuomo had agreed to work with the investigators and was interrogated by the investigators for hours, according to media reports.
From the carrier of hope to the problem case
In the corona pandemic, Cuomo had initially become the bearer of hope for the Democratic Party. He presented himself as an alternative to then-Republican President Donald Trump. Almost daily he gave clear information and PowerPoint presentations about the development of the infection process in his state and the measures to be taken against it. The press conferences gained cult status, were followed live by millions of people around the world – and the governor even received an Emmy, the most important television award in the US. The divorced father of three grown daughters, whose father Mario was governor of New York between 1983 and 1994, has been in office since 2011 – and was re-elected to a third term in 2019.
In addition to the sexual harassment allegations, Cuomo threatens to face even more problems: Due to the number of deaths in nursing homes related to the pandemic, the governor was suspected of concealing the true extent of the drama. He is also said to have aggressively attacked political critics and tried to intimidate them.