Can Andrew Cuomo Be Impeached?

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is facing twin scandals as a third woman accused him of sexual harassment on Monday and criticism continues of the state's underreporting of COVID-19 nursing home deaths.

Calls for the Democrat's resignation have mounted in recent days and there's been renewed focus on Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, who would succeed Cuomo if he resigns or is removed from office.

However, the impeachment process is a difficult one and in many ways it mirrors the impeachment of U.S. presidents. Former President Donald Trump's acquittal by the Senate offers a taste of what a Cuomo impeachment might look like.

"It is time to be brave, to hold him accountable, to investigate his cover-up of nursing home information. It is time to undo the bad policies that led to unnecessary deaths. And it is time to start the impeachment process," New York Assemblyman Ron Kim said in a Newsweek op-ed on February 22.

The New York constitution, originally adopted in 1777, provides for impeachment by the state assembly.

"The assembly shall have the power of impeachment by a vote of a majority of all the members elected thereto," Article VI, Section 24 reads.

"Before the trial of an impeachment, the members of the court shall take an oath or affirmation truly and impartially to try the impeachment according to the evidence, and no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of the members present," the constitution explains.

"Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, or removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any public office of honor, trust, or profit under this state; but the party impeached shall be liable to indictment and punishment according to law."

However, the New York constitution is vague about what constitutes an impeachable offense.

James Battista is associate professor of political science at the University of Buffalo. He told Newsweek just how difficult removing the governor could be.

"Andrew Cuomo can be impeached in much the same way that I can become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court or be the next Formula 1 champion—there's not anything intrinsically forbidding it, it's just not gonna happen," he said.

"The process is much the same as federal impeachment," Battista said. "The Assembly impeaches by majority vote, and unless there are legal precedents to the
contrary can impeach for whatever offenses make sense to it.

"The only major difference between federal impeachment and New York impeachment is that New York impeachments are tried in a notional court composed of Senators and the judges of the Court of Appeals [New York's highest court]."

"Absent new revelations, the probability of Republicans getting enough Democrats to sign on to an impeachment article so that it can pass the assembly is unlikely," Battista said.

"The probability of winning the required two-thirds majority in the impeachment court is very unlikely, again absent new revelations."

Battista's comments were made after the first allegations of sexual harassment against Cuomo but before the new accusations on Monday

Only one governor has been impeached in New York's history. In 1913, Democrat William Sulzer was successfully impeached and removed from office based on accusations of embezzling campaign funds.

However, Sulzer had clashed with Tammany Hall—then the powerful Democratic machine in New York—and refused to appoint party boss Charles F. Murphy's business partner to a position as a state highway superintendent. Some have maintained that Sulzer's conviction in the impeachment court was unfair and motivated by politics.

Jack O'Donnell, author of Bitten by the Tiger: The True Story of Impeachment, the Governor & Tammany Hall, told NY1 in 2020 that Sulzer's impeachment was largely a political matter.

"He was really impeached because he got into a battle, a political battle, a battle for supremacy with Tammany Hall," he said. "Impeachment, whether it's William Sulzer or other impeachments we've seen since then, are political acts. And voters tend to see them as such."

The only other governor to come close to impeachment was Eliot Spitzer in 2008. Facing a prostitution scandal, Spitzer resigned and Lt. Governor David Paterson saw out the remainder of his term.

Impeaching Cuomo would be both difficult and without recent precedent, while successfully removing him could be nearly impossible unless enough Democrats join Republicans in the impeachment court.

A Protest Outside Governor Andrew Cuomo's Office
A person places his red painted hands on a poster of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's book as people gather outside of his NYC office to protest against cuts to health care on March 1, 2021 in New York City. Cuomo is facing calls to resign and suggestions that he should be impeached. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images