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Here's What Needs to Happen for Andrew Cuomo to Be Removed from Office

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is on perilously thin ice.

His state’s two U.S. senators, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and most of the 27 other members of New York’s congressional delegation have called for his resignation.

In the state legislature, more than 120 lawmakers have called on the Democrat to step down.

Leaders in the state Assembly on Thursday announced an impeachment investigation, a first step toward potentially removing Cuomo from office.

Cuomo has rebuffed calls to resign and staked his political future on the outcome of an independent investigation by Attorney General Letitia James, who is examining allegations that the governor sexually harassed or inappropriately touched several female aides.

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Here’s a look at the next steps on the road to a possible impeachment:

ATTORNEY GENERAL’S INVESTIGATION

James, an independently elected Democrat, hired former U.S Attorney Joon Kim and employment discrimination attorney Anne Clark to lead her inquiry into the governor’s conduct.

The investigative team will have the power to subpoena documents and interview witnesses. Its findings will go in a public report.

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Cuomo has said that he will “fully cooperate.”

James lacks power to unilaterally remove Cuomo from office, but any findings corroborating the allegations could sway potential impeachment proceedings — or add pressure for Cuomo to leave voluntarily.

Kim and Clark may choose to limit the scope of their investigation to allegations that are already public, or broaden it to look for other women who might have complaints about Cuomo’s behavior.

James’ office sent a letter last week instructing the governor’s office to preserve all evidence related to the harassment allegations. That could include documents and emails to and from Cuomo’s staff, calendar entries and communications involving the transfer of one of his accusers to another office.

There is no deadline for completing the investigation and James hasn’t said how long she expects it to take.

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JUDICIARY COMMITTEE’S INVESTIGATION

The Assembly’s Judiciary Committee will also have power to subpoena documents and witness testimony. It could rely on work done by the attorney general’s team of investigators, or gather its own evidence.

The scope of its inquiry might go beyond Cuomo’s conduct with women. The governor is also under fire for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the state’s nursing homes.

Cuomo’s administration refused, for months, to release the full number of nursing home patients killed by the virus.

In a recorded conference call with lawmakers, Cuomo’s top aide said the administration withheld the data because it was afraid the fatality numbers could be “used against us.”

Federal investigators are also scrutinizing how the Cuomo administration handled nursing home data.

The Judiciary Committee’s work could result in the drafting of articles of impeachment against Cuomo.

THE IMPEACHMENT PROCESS

New York’s process for impeaching and removing a governor from office starts in the lower house of the Legislature — the Assembly.

If a majority of members vote to impeach Cuomo, a trial on his removal from office would be held in what’s known as an impeachment court.

The court consists not only of members of the state Senate, but also judges on the state’s highest appeals court. There are seven appeals court judges and 63 senators, though not all would serve on the impeachment court.

The lieutenant governor and Senate majority leader are also members, but they are excluded when a governor is on trial.

At least two-thirds of the jurors must vote to convict in order to remove Cuomo.

Democrats control both chambers of the Legislature. Many have joined Republicans in calling for Cuomo’s resignation or impeachment in recent days. Cuomo has appointed all seven members of the Court of Appeals.

New York has only removed a governor once, in 1913, when Gov. William Sulzer was impeached in what he claimed was political retribution for turning his back on the powerful Tammany Hall Democratic machine.

SIDELINING CUOMO

If Cuomo were impeached by the Assembly, state law would force him to step aside immediately.

According to the state constitution, the lieutenant governor would then take over.

If Cuomo were to be acquitted in an impeachment court, he would return to office.

If he were removed from office, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul would serve out the remainder of Cuomo’s term — through the end of 2022.

The court could also opt to disqualify Cuomo from holding office in the future, on top of removing him.


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