New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation Tuesday under the weight of a sexual-harassment scandal that engulfed his administration and derailed his political future, capping a remarkable and rapid fall for a governor whose national profile had risen to extraordinary heights during the coronavirus pandemic.
Cuomo, a Democrat, said his resignation will take effect in 14 days ending a decade-long run in the office, first as an adviser to his father, the late Governor Mario Cuomo, before winning three terms himself.
With Cuomo stepping down, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul of Buffalo will make history as the first woman to serve as New York governor. She will be sworn in after Cuomo’s resignation takes effect and is set to fill out the remainder of his term, which runs through 2022.
The announcement comes after State Attorney General Letitia James released on August 3rd the results here of a five-month independent investigation that concluded he had engaged in conduct that violated U.S. and state laws.
The investigation, detailed in a 168-page report, found that Cuomo groped, kissed or made suggestive comments to women including current and former government workers – one a state trooper – and retaliated against at least one woman who accused him of sexual misconduct. Cuomo denied wrongdoing.
Cuomo’s resignation marks the second time in 13 years that a New York governor has stepped down in scandal, after Eliot Spitzer quit in 2008 over his patronage of prostitutes.
His resignation spared Cuomo from possible removal from office through impeachment proceedings in the state legislature. An ongoing impeachment investigation had only promised to intensify.
The civil investigation found that the actions of Cuomo and his senior advisers violated multiple state and federal laws, but James did not pursue criminal charges. Local prosecutors are free to do so, meaning Cuomo still could face legal jeopardy.
Local prosecutors in Manhattan, Nassau County, Albany County and Westchester County said after the report’s release that they are looking into the matter and have requested evidence from the independent inquiry. New York City’s mayor said Cuomo should face criminal charges.
Cuomo had for months denied mounting allegations of sexual harassment – and renewed those denials after the investigative report was issued. But what was left of his political support crumbled after the findings were made public. Hours later, Biden – a friend of the governor for years – told reporters at the White House here “I think he should resign.”
Other prominent Democrats including the New York’s two U.S. senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi also lined up in calling on the party’s one-time star to resign.
Investigators here concluded that Cuomo and his aides created a “toxic” and “hostile” workplace in an office gripped by bullying, fear and intimidation. The complaints about sexual harassment emerged after broader criticism by Democratic politicians in New York that Cuomo governed through intimidation.