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New York Gov Resigns To Ward Off Impeachment

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced his resignation Tuesday in an effort to head off a looming impeachment effort in the state Assembly after a state investigation found he sexually harassed 11 women and oversaw an unlawful attempt to exact retribution against one of his accusers.
“Wasting energy on distractions is the last thing that state government should be doing,” Cuomo said in a video address. “And I cannot be the cause of that.”
“Given the circumstances the best way I can help now is to step aside and let government get back to governing,” he added.
He said his resignation will be effective in 14 days. Cuomo will be replaced by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), who will be New York’s first female governor and will serve out the rest of the term until the next election in November 2022.
Cuomo’s decision to step down represents a crushing defeat for the three-term Democratic governor, who had remained defiant through months of escalating scandal. He repeatedly denied improperly touching women — even as accusations mounted — and dismissed the harassment claims as a misinterpretation of his affectionate political style and attempts to build office camaraderie.
“In my mind, I’ve never crossed the line with anyone, but I didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn,” Cuomo said. “There are generational and cultural shifts that I just didn’t fully appreciate and I should have no excuses.”
He announced his resignation shortly after his attorney Rita Glavin delivered a lengthy attack on a report commissioned by the state attorney general that was released last week.
“The report got key facts wrong, it omitted key evidence, and it failed to include witnesses who did not support the narrative that it was clear this investigation was going to weave from day one,” Glavin said in a virtual news conference.
“For the last eight days, it has been a pile on,” she added.
By the time Cuomo finally decided to leave office, he was politically isolated — having lost the support of President Biden, the state’s two Democratic senators and most of the New York congressional delegation.
Public polls taken this month found most New Yorkers — including fellow Democrats — wanted Cuomo to resign. A Quinnipiac University poll found 70 percent of registered voters said he should step down, including 57 percent of Democrats. The poll found 54 percent believed that Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and 55 percent said he should be charged with a crime.
“I think the governor did the right thing,” Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said after his announcement on Capitol Hill. “And I just want to commend the brave and courageous women who came forward. That was not an easy thing to do.”
Cuomo’s standing collapsed quickly after Attorney General Letitia James released the results of her investigation on Aug. 3. Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie (D), a longtime ally, announced that the governor had “lost the confidence of the Assembly Democratic majority,” adding that he “can no longer remain in office.” State Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) also called for his resignation.
Impeachment proceedings were ongoing, with plans for a vote within weeks, and Cuomo advisers said privately this week that they expected that he would be booted from office. Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles D. Lavine said Monday that there could be a reason to continue the impeachment effort against Cuomo even if he resigns, noting that a vote at Senate trial could bar him from ever holding office again in New York.
Cuomo had been ensconced in the Albany governor’s mansion for days, refusing entreaties from allies to resign as he assessed how he could survive politically. His efforts to defend his conduct were deemed ineffective by even some of his staunchest allies.
He still faces criminal investigations into his conduct by prosecutors in several counties, including New York, as well as an ongoing federal investigation by the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn into the administration’s handling of nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic. The New York attorney general is separately probing whether the administration misused public resources it provided Cuomo relatives and other well-connected New Yorkers with preferential coronavirus testing and aides helped him write a book last year that netted him more than $5 million.
After three decades in public life, the longtime political survivor was felled by an independent report commissioned by James, whose explosive findings detailed how Cuomo allegedly harassed women inside and outside his office with unwanted touching and inappropriate comments. The 165-page-long report — based on interviews with 179 individuals, including Cuomo and his top aides — concluded there was evidence to substantiate claims against him by 11 women.
Joon Kim, the former acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York appointed by James to help lead the investigation, said some women “suffered through unwanted touching and grabbing of their most intimate body parts.”
“The executive chamber’s workplace culture was rife with bullying, fear and intimidation on one hand while normalizing frequent flirtations and gender-based comments by the governor on the other,” Kim added.
The report included details of an alleged incident in November, when Cuomo embraced an executive assistant and reached under her blouse to grab her breast. The governor denied the episode.
The report laid out details about he allegedly harassed a female state trooper, who was hired onto Cuomo’s detail after they had a brief exchange, even though she had not yet served the requisite three years to work on his protective detail.
The governor touched the trooper inappropriately on several occasions, running his finger down her spine when he was standing behind her on an elevator in his New York City office, according to the report. In another episode, Cuomo allegedly ran his hand across the trooper’s stomach as she held the door open for him at an event on Long Island.
The governor also allegedly grabbed the buttocks of an employee of another state office, made sexually suggestive comments to a young female assistant and inappropriately touched other women not employed by the state. He allegedly gave kissed another state employee without consent in his office.
Investigators also found that Cuomo made numerous suggestive sexual comments that constituted “unlawful sexual harassment.”
These included telling the female state trooper that his criteria for a girlfriend was someone who “can handle pain,” telling one assistant it was “about time you showed some leg,” suggesting a buttock tattoo to an aide and calling two executive assistants “mingle mamas” while asking one of them whether she would be willing to cheat on her partner.
The report also found that Cuomo did not appear to complete the required sexual harassment training for his office, with his assistant signing a form attesting to his completion of the training on his behalf.
And the investigator found that Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide, worked with other advisers to discredit one of his accusers, Lindsey Boylan — even releasing her personnel file to reporters. DeRosa resigned from Cuomo’s staff Sunday.
The attorney general’s office found that the campaign against Boylan, which included the circulation of a draft of a letter that impugned her credibility, amounted to “unlawful retaliation.”
“My clients feel both vindicated and relieved that Cuomo will no longer be in a position of power over anyone,” said attorney Mariann Wang, who represented two Cuomo accusers, in a statement after the governor’s announcement.
Cuomo’s announcement marked a dramatic fall for a politician who had attracted widespread acclaim last year for his handling of the pandemic in the state. He won a special Emmy award for his daily televised briefings and published a self-adulatory book about his leadership during the crisis, which charted on bestseller lists. He was eyeing a fourth term that would surpass his father, Mario Cuomo, who served three terms as New York’s governor.
He was known for governing through fear, screaming and threatening lawmakers and aides alike, and regularly attacking other politicians, such as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. His allies said his ruthless style allowed him to accomplish political goals, such as passing same-sex marriage and other progressive agenda items.
But he made few true allies, and many New York politicians felt schadenfreude at watching his troubles. Cuomo was viewed skeptically by many liberals in the city, but he was usually able to overcome any opposition from groups such as the Working Families Party.
After working on his father’s campaigns, the younger Cuomo served in the Department Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton.
He first ran for New York governor in 2002, only to see his hopes dashed before the primary by a critical comment about then-Gov. George E. Pataki. He made a comeback in 2006, when he was elected New York attorney general, clearing the way for his 2010 election as governor.
His third term in office was set to conclude in 2022, and he was widely expected to seek a fourth term, with no clear Democratic rival.
Divorced from Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, Cuomo has three adult daughters.
He addressed his daughters at the end of his remarks Tuesday.
“I want them to know from the bottom of my heart that I never did and I never would intentionally disrespect a woman or treat any woman differently than I would want them treated, and that is the God’s honest truth,” he said. “Your dad made mistakes, and he apologized and he learned from it. And that is what life is all about.”
 
Source: Washington Post

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