A Cuomo impeachment: How would removing the governor from office work?

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NEW YORK – A damning report released Tuesday is casting doubt on the political future of a once-rising star of the Democratic party — but his tenure might be over before even Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s term expires at the end of 2022.

Lots of prominent political figures are calling on the governor to resign over the sexual harassment scandal. President Joe Biden — once Cuomo’s close ally — said Tuesday that, while he hadn’t read the report, he thought Cuomo should quit. Both U.S. senators for New York, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, say he should resign. So does U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the governors of neighboring New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, and many other Democrats.

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But Cuomo is more defiant than ever, disputing allegations in a taped response and saying “the facts are much different than what has been portrayed” and that he “never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.” He also alleged that the investigation itself was fueled by “politics and bias.”

He apologized for making staffers feel uncomfortable, but chalked up some of the allegations to misunderstandings caused by generational and cultural differences (he’s Italian American) while flat-out denying the more serious allegations. Accompanied by multiple slideshows of Cuomo and other politicians embracing members of the public, the governor said the gesture was inherited from his parents and meant to convey warmth.

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What if Cuomo doesn’t resign?

The state Assembly has the power to bring impeachment charges against Cuomo and aims to wrap up its own probe “as quickly as possible,” according to Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat who said it was clear Cuomo could no longer remain in office. The Assembly could theoretically vote to launch impeachment proceedings before the probe is finished.

Can New Yorkers recall Cuomo?

This isn’t California. New York has no mechanism to remove elected officials via recall.

How does impeachment work in New York?

New York impeachments start in the Assembly, and if a majority of members vote to impeach Cuomo, the matter moves to the Impeachment Court. In this case, that court would comprise the state Senate — minus its majority leader — and the seven judges of the state’s highest court. Two-thirds of the court would need to vote to convict to remove Cuomo.

New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has said the chamber is working expeditiously toward filing articles of impeachment against Cuomo, though the process may take until September. It’s believed Heastie has more than enough votes to impeach when articles are prepared.

Has a governor of New York ever been impeached?

Once, in 1913. Gov. William Sulzer was ousted after less than a year in office. He claimed his impeachment was retribution for turning his back on the powerful Tammany Hall Democratic machine.

In more recent memory, Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned from office in 2008, embroiled in a prostitution scandal; Gov. Nelson Rockefeller resigned in 1973 to work full-time on a bipartisan domestic and foreign policy commission.

If Cuomo leaves office, who would become governor?

Kathy Hochul, the 62-year-old lieutenant governor. The Democrat from western New York once served in Congress, but has a somewhat-limited public profile in the state.

What if he isn’t ousted and refuses to resign?

So far, all signs point to him running for a fourth term in 2022, and he has begun fundraising. Some polling earlier this year suggested the public’s support for Cuomo had slipped, but not dramatically so. No other Democrats have officially issued a primary challenge — though New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio hasn’t ruled out a run. On the Republican side, possible opponents include U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin and Andrew Giuliani, son of Rudy.

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