Note: This article contains mentions of sexual assault which may be triggering to some readers. Please proceed with caution.
A notorious sexual predator left New York’s highest office on Aug. 24.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) resigned in disgrace on Aug. 10, effective two weeks later, after an official investigation confirmed he had sexually harassed at least 11 women. New York Attorney General Letitia James found that the “Love Gov” had inappropriately touched and forcibly kissed a state trooper assigned to protect him, groped his aide, and, according to the Associated Press, asked a member of his staff if she was “open to sex with an older man” after she divulged that she was a survivor of sexual assault.
It was reassuring to see public pressure compel Cuomo to resign; but mere resignation is not sufficient to properly hold him accountable. The tone of Cuomo’s resignation speech was defiant and far from contrite, insisting that there was some great “generational and cultural” misunderstanding between his victims and him. Cuomo’s allies are already telegraphing a potential comeback; New York state Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs was quoted by The New York Times as saying that “American politics is rife with stories of redemption and people coming back.”
A public servant who cannot follow the sexual harassment laws that he personally signed has no place in political leadership. To hold the governor accountable, we must do everything in our power to prevent him from ever holding office again. Cuomo is a threat to his staffers and constituents and New York cannot afford to leave his potential return to office up to chance.
It’s worth noting that the grounds for Cuomo’s impeachment were met well before James’ investigation began. In February, the New York Post revealed that Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa and Cuomo intentionally withheld the true COVID-19 death toll counts within New York state nursing homes, fearing federal prosecution. To hide the death tolls — by as much as 50%, no less — to avoid being held accountable is obstruction of justice and a moral crime to the New Yorkers who lost family members because of Cuomo’s foolish decision to admit COVID-19 patients into nursing homes. Despite the coverage that praised Cuomo’s COVID-19 response, there has been a real human cost to the city and state because of his leadership decisions.
After his failure to protect New York’s most vulnerable, Governor Cuomo signed a book deal worth $5.1 million, titled “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Even worse, in a case of textbook corruption, DeRosa and other leadership aides instructed official government employees to work on the manuscript of the book, essentially using taxpayer money to generate millions of dollars in personal profit.
One controversy that has not been given nearly enough notice was Cuomo’s 2014 attempt to bully the White House in order to shut down former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara’s investigation into his administration. The director of Loyola Law School’s Public Service Institute, Jessica Levinson, believes that Cuomo’s move against the investigation could amount to an additional impeachable offense. It is extremely concerning to think that other controversies may have gone unreported over the course of Cuomo’s three terms in the Governor’s office and one term as the Attorney General, as well as his time in former President Bill Clinton’s cabinet.
Unfortunately, State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced that the impeachment investigation would be dropped, citing Cuomo’s resignation as governor and exit from the office. He believes the state constitution does not allow for the impeachment for a former elected official.
The speaker made the wrong decision. Just as former President Donald Trump was impeached shortly before the end of his term with the vote on his conviction happening after, Cuomo should have been impeached before his term in office came to an end and convicted afterwards, assuming that such an action would be constitutional. Impeachment is not merely a means to remove Cuomo from office, but is also a way of communicating to current and future citizens that Cuomo failed to act in their best interests and mismanaged the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moreover, although Cuomo has left office, impeachment may remain a possibility. As impeaching a former officeholder is unprecedented within New York, constitutional experts are undecided about whether impeachment and conviction are even constitutional. If constitutional experts or some deliberative body within state government determine that impeaching a former officeholder is constitutional, the New York state Legislature must immediately move to impeach and convict Cuomo. Doing so would prevent him from holding statewide office ever again.
Outside of formal investigations and impeachments, voters have significant power, too. If Cuomo mounts a comeback bid one day, do not vote for him. Do not donate to him. Cuomo is a man who was a danger to his constituents every second he held office, and he should never hold office again.
Contact Kevin Kurian at [email protected]