The New York State Assembly should immediately begin an Impeachment Investigation of New York Gov. Cuomo
Unlike California where Governor Gavin Newsom is almost certain to face a recall election, New York, unfortunately, has no mechanism whereby citizens can directly attempt to remove a sitting chief executive. In New York it is up to the people’s elected representatives to use the impeachment process outlined in the New York State Constitution.
To be impeached the governor must have engaged in “willful and corrupt conduct.” Under the New York State Constitution, if the Assembly alone votes to impeach, the governor immediately relinquishes his authority and the Lieutenant Governor takes over. An impeached New York governor doesn’t regain executive authority unless acquitted in the impeachment trial. Thus, if 76 of the 150 Members of the New York State Assembly vote to impeach, Gov. Cuomo would be stripped of executive authority.
If the Assembly votes to impeach, the trial should ensure the Governor is afforded due process.
BACKGROUND ON NEW YORK IMPEACHMENT
In 2008 when New York Governor Elliot Spitzer was threatened with impeachment amid a prostitution scandal, he resigned. Only one New York Governor has ever been impeached. In 1913 Governor William Sulzer was impeached by the Assembly and removed by the Senate on perjury-related charges. Governor Sulzer’s impeachment is seen by many as lacking due process and as a victory for Tammany Hall over a reformer.
AREA OF INVESTIGATION
Governor Cuomo’s administration issued a mandate forcing nursing homes in the state to admit Covid positive patients. This decision likely led to the death of thousands of elderly New Yorkers. Cuomo subsequently stonewalled the Legislature, watchdog groups, and the public to cover up data on nursing home deaths.
A court ruled Cuomo’s cover-up was a violation of the state’s transparency laws. Cuomo’s top advisor then admitted in a recorded conversation that the administration withheld data on nursing home deaths because of a US Department of Justice investigation. This may be a criminal obstruction of justice.
Clearly, Cuomo’s order to force nursing homes to take Covid positive patients was willful. Whether or not there was a corrupt reason for these decisions, perhaps related to Cuomo’s lust for campaign contributions from the healthcare industry, should be vigorously investigated by the Legislature as part of an impeachment probe. Cuomo’s defense that he was following federal guidelines is not credible.
As far as the corrupt intent element, it is hard to imagine that there was any justification for the illegal lack of transparency. And it appears fear of a federal investigation, protection of Cuomo’s political reputation and his prospects for reelection or higher office may also have been driving the unlawful opaqueness. Financial rewards from his book about leadership during the pandemic may have played a role as well.
The Assembly should immediately pass a resolution to establish a bipartisan committee to investigate the Governor’s actions and make recommendations whether or not to impeach.