This makes two official investigations of Cuomo’s behavior, one by the attorney general and one by the state assembly’s judiciary committee. And there could be a third cooking depending on what the Albany PD does with the allegation that Cuomo groped a staffer underneath her blouse at the executive mansion.
Imagine that. Three separate probes potentially of the governor by three different agencies, just a year before he’s facing reelection and at a moment when he’s also trying to explain why he cooked the books on deaths from COVID in New York nursing homes.
And you know what? I’d still bet the SOB survives and gets reelected next year.
…although I wouldn’t bet as much as I would have yesterday.
NEW: Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie confirms the Assembly Judiciary Committee will launch an investigation into Cuomo, with subpoena power.
They are terming it as an "impeachment investigation." pic.twitter.com/ZfJmP693Lh
— Jon Campbell (@JonCampbellGAN) March 11, 2021
The head of the state party is also behind the idea:
NEW: NYS Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs on the most recent allegations against @NYGovCuomo:
"I agree with Speaker Heastie that now is the time for the Legislature to commence its own review of these matters as a part of its Constitutional responsibilities." pic.twitter.com/BQerX8YZD6
— Morgan Mckay (@morganfmckay) March 11, 2021
Making matters worse for Cuomo, the impeachment probe won’t be limited to the sexual harassment claims. They’re coming after him for the nursing-home cover-up too — or at least they’re empowered to do so, per the New York Post. “Heastie asked the Judiciary Committee to address all the allegations against Cuomo,” a source told the paper. America’s worst governor is finally in trouble! Isn’t he?
Well, hold on. New York magazine says Dems in the assembly are split three ways. There are the Cuomo loyalists, mostly minority members, who want to lay off and wait for the results of the AG’s investigation. There are the fencesitters, whom Cuomo’s aides believe are persuadable. And then there are the progressives, who hate Cuomo and want him out yesterday. Gothamist reports that lefties leaned heavily on Heastie this afternoon to skip the impeachment investigation and just put impeachment on the floor. Heastie wouldn’t do it, which means he just bought Cuomo precious time:
In tense, hours-long conversations that took place on Thursday afternoon, left-leaning Assembly Democrats tried to force Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx, a long-standing ally of Cuomo’s, and other centrists in the body, to vote immediately to impeach the governor, arguing the facts would be deliberated during the State Senate’s subsequent trial, according to multiple members of the assembly…
“Some of us do feel like we’re just punting it, and buying the governor time, which is not what we want to do,” said Democratic Assemblymember Ron Kim, from Queens, who’s become one of Cuomo’s fiercest critics and has been lobbying for Cuomo’s impeachment, along with a small handful of Democratic lawmakers and a growing number of Republicans. “He has shown there’s a pattern of abusive behavior. For the sake of the staff members around him, let’s just remove him so he can no longer be a threat to others.”
No dice, Heastie said, which means the assembly will proceed on a parallel track with Letitia James, the AG. One wonders how the latter’s conclusions will influence the former’s. Will the assembly want to risk having its own findings be out of sync with hers? Imagine if they conclude Cuomo’s guilty of harassment and move to impeach, only to have James’s office issue a report insisting that the evidence isn’t strong enough to justify drawing any firm conclusions. Or imagine the flip side, where the assembly decides there’s not enough evidence to impeach and James determines that his accusers are credible and that his abuse was serious, particularly in the case of the woman he allegedly groped. That’ll make it look like the Democrat-controlled legislature was covering for Cuomo.
What choice does the assembly have but to slow-walk its own probe so that James’s more credible results are issued first?
There’s another risk. Both James and the assembly could conclude (and probably will conclude) that Cuomo behaved “inappropriately” but did nothing criminal, or at least nothing that would get a jury to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. And if they do, Cuomo will claim that as a sort of vindication. I’m reminded of some Trump fans tweeting gleefully after he was acquitted at his second impeachment trial last month, “BACK-TO-BACK IMPEACHMENT CHAMP.” There’s a grain of logic behind that joke: If you’re found not guilty, it’s easy to spin the outcome as proof that you were innocent all along. Cuomo could use that argument in his reelection campaign next year. “The attorney general looked at this, the state assembly looked at this, and in the end neither found enough evidence to justify any punishment. If they were unwilling to say I don’t deserve to keep my office, why should voters feel that way?”
In lieu of an exit question, read Kyle Smith on how Cuomo is likely to “brazen” his way to a fourth term. Almost certainly true. Asking for accountability in America 2021, particularly in a one-party state, is asking too much.