Endgame? More than half of New York Assembly lawmakers support impeaching Cuomo if he won't resign

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Are we actually going to see a major political figure removed from office for misbehavior? After so many misses in that realm at the national level over the past 25 years, accountability in the form of ejecting a corrupt official from his sinecure is hard to imagine.

It’d be ironic too if Cuomo became the first pandemic-era leader to be tossed out on his ear — but not for his egregious mismanagement of the pandemic. No politician ever pays a price for botching COVID, from governors to the public-health bureaucracy to Trump, who lost in November more in spite of his virus policies, I think, than because of them.

With every major Democratic figure from Biden on down having called on Cuomo to resign, New York’s mostly Democratic state assembly has an unusual degree of political cover to bring down the hammer on him. But time is of the essence, as one of the common threads between the two Trump impeachments is that public momentum fades quickly. The longer the Ukraine impeachment dragged out, the easier it was for Republicans to argue that the electorate should decide Trump’s fate in the upcoming election rather than have Congress decide. And although the period from the insurrection to the second impeachment vote spanned just a week, that was enough time for shellshocked GOPers to coalesce behind the argument that Trump would be leaving office soon and couldn’t properly be tried by the Senate in time.

Somehow, for Republicans, it was always too late to impeach Trump. Cuomo’s going to make the same argument to his own party with a gubernatorial election looming next year. If they’re intent on axing him, get on with it.

At least 82 of the body’s 150 members have said publicly or told The AP that they favored initiating the process of ousting the third-term Democratic governor if he doesn’t quit. A simple majority of Assembly members is needed to authorize an impeachment trial…

Assembly Democrats, who lead the chamber, debated virtually for hours Tuesday about whether to impeach the governor now, wait to see whether he resigns, or give the Assembly Judiciary Committee time to wrap up its wide-ranging investigation into topics from sexual misconduct to the Cuomo administration’s monthslong obfuscation of the total number of nursing home residents who died from COVID-19…

Assembly Republican Leader Will Barclay urged Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, to convene an emergency special session to vote to impeach Cuomo.

Around half of the 82 are Democrats, making the impeachment push thoroughly bipartisan. In case the others in the caucus want more cover from party leaders, the head of the New York Democratic Party also lowered the boom on Cuomo today:

Jacobs is Cuomo’s own guy. As one NYT reporter put it, it’s like Charlie McCarthy calling for Edgar Bergen’s ouster.

The thinking on Team Cuomo is that if he can fend off impeachment and removal, the party and its voters will come back to him in time. What choice do they have, realistically? There are no obvious alternatives to him as nominee:

The longer the Assembly waits — its own investigation is now entering its fifth month — the longer Cuomo can argue that his fate is something that the voters of New York should decide next June in the Democratic primary and then in a November general election.

Cuomo thinks that if he can make it that far, that if he can get out of another tough spot, he can prevail before the voters next year. His staff have monitored poll numbers closely, and until this latest round of news, they showed that he remained popular, especially among older voters. It would be hard for James, after commissioning a report that the governor’s team has derided as political, to use that report as the basis to run against him. The remaining options, de Blasio and possibly State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, don’t have either his name recognition or his fundraising prowess. The governor is unlikely to resign unless he absolutely has to, people close to him say, in part because as a government employee, he could be entitled to have his legal fees covered by the state.

That’s another similarity between this impeachment and Trump’s, the fear of legal jeopardy if the officeholder is removed and suddenly vulnerable to criminal law. District attorneys in Manhattan and Westchester were keen to let everyone know yesterday that they’d already requested the evidence gathered by the state AG and would be assessing it to see if Cuomo should face criminal charges. It’s not impossible (although it’s unlikely) that Andrew Cuomo ends up a private citizen and in the clink when all of this is done, another reason he won’t go willingly. “It’s over, but he won’t admit that yet,” said one advisor to WaPo.

A little more pressure from the top might embolden New York Dems in the state assembly and state senate — which will be the real crucible in all this — to move forward expeditiously. But the White House declined the opportunity to exert that pressure when one was offered today:

Charlie Sykes pointed out that one huge difference between Cuomo’s impeachment and Trump’s is that the Democratic party establishment is all for their guy resigning while the Republican party establishment was all for their guy fighting on. “Perhaps more important: he has no equivalent of the right-wing echo chamber that will rush to his defense. There will be some inevitable whataboutism about Trump and Matt Gaetz, etc., but there is no talk radio/Fox News ecosystem that will cast him as the victim,” Sykes said. True, although there are a few meaningful differences between Trump and Cuomo. Trump was the leader of his party; Cuomo is a major but ultimately peripheral figure. Dems can spare him in a way that GOPers couldn’t spare Trump. When a Democratic president was in the crosshairs for sexual misconduct in 1998, his party was dogged in protecting him. Moreover, Trump is a populist beloved by the activist base while Cuomo is an establishmentarian despised by the activist left. The noisiest people in their wing of partisan media have no meaningful interest in seeing him stay on like the noisiest people in ours had with Trump. If anything, the opposite is true. Ousting Cuomo would give the left a shot at replacing him with a far-left progressive in Albany.

But Sykes is right inasmuch as no one in the Democratic Party commands the kind of “loyalty or death” personality cult-ism that Trump does on the right, Biden included. And I think some Dems, although only some, take #MeToo seriously enough that they now feel obliged to hold their own accountable even when it’s politically awkward for the party. I don’t know what share of Republicans feel the same way, but I don’t think it’s as high.

By the way, there is a media figure who was willing to run interference for Cuomo last night. No, not on CNN or MSNBC. It was Greg Kelly of right-of-Fox Newsmax, who for whatever weird reason spent 10 minutes making the case that Cuomo was being railroaded despite the fact that 11 different women have accused him of conduct. I don’t understand the agenda here and, frankly, I don’t want to understand it.