Assembly Leaders Start Cuomo Impeachment Investigation; Thiele Says First Step Is Warranted

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The East End’s state legislators have thrown their support behind the consideration of impeachment proceedings against Governor Andrew Cuomo in the wake of sexual harassment allegations and the alleged attempts to “cover up” the true number of deaths from COVID-19 in state nursing homes.

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said on Thursday, March 11, that he supports the decision by the New York State Assembly leadership to begin an “inquiry” into the possible impeachment of Mr. Cuomo.

“There aren’t a lot of precedents in New York but … from what I’ve seen, between what has happened with the cover-up of nursing home deaths and now six accusations with regard to sexual harassment and now a sexual assault, I think it warrants starting the impeachment process,” Mr. Thiele said. “I will not prejudge anything. I will sit and listen to the evidence, but the charges against the governor are extremely serious and extremely credible. So there will be an investigation by the Committee on the Judiciary. And we’ve been in touch with the attorney general about what her office is doing and what the Assembly will be undertaking.”

Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie announced on Thursday evening, March 11, that the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee will begin an inquiry immediately, the first step in the state’s impeachment process.

“The reports of accusations concerning the governor are serious,” Mr. Heastie said in a statement. “The committee will have the authority to interview witnesses, subpoena documents and evaluate evidence, as is allowed by the New York State Constitution.”

Much like in the process of impeaching the president at the federal level, in the State Legislature, the larger, lower house, the Assembly, will act as the prosecution in a criminal case, undertaking an investigation and drafting articles of impeachment if deemed warranted. A vote to impeach would be akin to a criminal indictment — though impeachment carries no criminal potential.

Unlike the federal process, however, if the governor is impeached by the Assembly, he would have to immediately step down from his role, handing authority to Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, while the Senate takes up his trial. If the Senate votes to convict the governor of the charges leveled by the Assembly, he would be permanently removed from office. If the Senate voted to acquit, he would resume the post.

A trial would be handled in tandem by the Senate and the seven judges who sit on the state’s highest court, the New York State Court of Appeals. The Senate’s majority leader, Andrew Stewart-Cousins, would not be part of the trial, as she is in the line of succession to the governor’s office.

A New York governor has only been impeached once before: when William Sulzer was convicted by the State Senate on articles of impeachment that accused him of falsifying reports on his campaign expenditures, and removed from the post after only 10 months in office. Mr. Sulzer had angered members of the notorious Tammany Hall political organization by trying to undertake political reforms and refusing to work with them on appointments.

New York State Senator Anthony Palumbo last Thursday also called on the governor to resign after the revelation that a woman who said that Mr. Cuomo had “groped” her in the Executive Mansion had been referred to Albany Police as a possible case of assault.

“In the wake of numerous sexual harassment allegations and now a deeply disturbing claim of sexual assault against Governor Cuomo, I truly question his ability to lead our state through these difficult times,” Mr. Palumbo said in a statement. “While I am a firm believer in due process and feel strongly that everyone is entitled to their day in court, these scandals undermine the governor’s ability to conduct his official duties and have irreparably damaged the public’s trust in the state’s top executive.”

Mr. Thiele has not joined Mr. Palumbo and the growing chorus of those calling for Mr. Cuomo to resign rather than embark on the spectacle of an impeachment.

“I can say anything I want, but it doesn’t mean anything because that’s a decision for him to make,” Mr. Thiele said. “The governor knows what he did or didn’t do and based on that he may want to think about what he faces going forward and decide what action to take on his own.”

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