NEW York Governor Andrew Cuomo could be forced to testify over sex harassment claims as Democratic lawmakers call for his impeachment.
Six Democratic lawmakers from the New York State Senate and Assembly called for the impeachment of Gov Cuomo, in a joint letter obtained by Business Insider.
On Sunday, Cuomo responded to the latest sexual harassment claims made by two former employees – Charlotte Bennett and Lindsey Boylan – and Anna Ruch, 33, who recalled a disturbing encounter with the politician at a wedding in 2019.
Cuomo acknowledged that he may have made inappropriate remarks that could "have been misinterpreted".
“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended,” Cuomo said in a statement.
“I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.”
Cuomo’s office has indicated that the governor’s office would “voluntarily cooperate fully” and that it had instructed all state employees to do so as well.
The six lawmakers calling for Cuomo's impeachment include State Senators Julia Salazar and Jabari Brisport, as well as Assembly Members Emily Gallagher, Phara Souffrant Forrest, Zohran Mamdani, and Marcela Mitaynes.
The legislators said Cuomo's "predatory behavior" and "gross misconduct" demand impeachment proceedings.
"The accounts of sexual harassment from the women who have courageously come forward confirm what many in Albany have known for years; that Governor Cuomo uses his power to belittle, bully and harass his employees and colleagues," the members wrote.
"The accounts add to recent revelations of gross misconduct. It is time for the legislature to demand accountability.
"Impeachment proceedings are the appropriate avenue for us to pursue as legislators to hold the Governor accountable for his many abuses of power and remove him from office," they added.
How would a Cuomo impeachment work?
- New York impeachments begin in the state Assembly and a majority of the chamber’s 150 members would have to vote in favor of impeaching Cuomo for the process to continue.
- However, an impeachment vote in the state Assembly is just a charge, Cuomo would not be removed from office at that point.
- If the Assembly votes to impeach, the trial then goes to a special impeachment court establish by the constitution for a trial.
- The state’s impeachment court includes members of the state Senate and the seven judges on New York’s Court of Appeals.
- A two-thirds majority vote would be required to convict Cuomo and remove him from office – that’s a total of 46 votes in favor of conviction.
- If Cuomo is convicted, NY Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul would take over a governor and serve the remainder of Cuomo's current term.
- If Cuomo were convicted, lawmakers would also have the option to bar him from holding public office in the future.
- If Cuomo's acquitted, Hochul would cease serving as acting governor and Cuomo would resume his duties. Hochul would return to serving as lieutenant governor.
On Monday, Ruch was the latest victim to speak out about her encounter with Cuomo, when he asked the woman if he could kiss her at a wedding two years ago.
The encounter was captured on camera by a photographer, which shows the moment Cuomo grabbed Ruch's face and asked "can I kiss you".
Ruch told The New York Times that she went up to the governor, 63, to compliment him on a speech he made at a friend's wedding.
The governor then put his hand on Ruch's bare back, she said. When she removed his hand, Ruch claims the governor called her "aggressive."
He then grabbed her face and asked to kiss her, according to her account.
"I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed," Ruch told The Times. "I turned my head away and didn't have words in that moment."
Two former employees of the governor, Bennett and Boylan, have also come forward with accusations of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Bennett told the Times that the governor asked her inappropriate questions about her sex life, including if she had sex with older men.
"I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared," Bennett said.
Boylan said that Cuomo kissed her without consent and asked inappropriate questions, like if she wanted to play strip poker.
His office gave New York's attorney general the go-ahead to hire a "private" lawyer to launch an investigation into the allegations.
On Monday, Bennett said that she believes the governor "refused to acknowledge or take responsibility for his predatory behavior" in his response.
"It took the governor 24 hours and significant backlash to allow for a truly independent investigation," she said in a statement.
"These are not the actions of someone who simply feels misunderstood; they are the actions of an individual who wields his power to avoid justice."
The governor's brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, acknowledged the allegations while on air on Monday, but said he can't cover the story.
"Obviously, I'm aware of what's going on with my brother, and obviously I cannot cover it because he is my brother," Chris said.
"Of course, CNN has to cover it. They have covered it extensively and they will continue to do so."
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Cuomo should resign over "abuse".
De Blasio said that any older man trying to use a position of power to take advantage of an employee is "horrible" and said anyone guilty of that behavior should "no longer" work in government.
"If someone purposely tried to use their power to force a woman to have sex with them, of course that's someone who should no longer be in public service," de Blasio said on Monday during his daily press briefing.
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