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Lawmakers In New York Move Closer To Impeaching Cuomo

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

So what will New York state lawmakers do next? Let's ask state assembly member Yuh-Line Niou, who represents Chinatown and other parts of Manhattan and New York City. Good morning.

YUH-LINE NIOU: Good morning. Thank you for having me.

INSKEEP: Can you lay out the process in the Legislature as you understand it? What happens first? What happens next?

NIOU: So first off, I think that, you know, right now there is a Judiciary Committee that is making the decision on dropping articles of impeachment, laying out what those articles of impeachment look like. We as Legislature have been able to - that's a new part of the process, I guess. And we as the Legislature have the ability to draw up the articles of impeachment, and then the Senate then has the ability to have a trial and a investigation. And then they have to prove their case, obviously. And then - and the minute that we have actually submitted the articles of impeachment, then, obviously, the governor is no longer...

INSKEEP: He goes. He's out.

NIOU: ...You know, endangering his staff, yeah.

INSKEEP: I see.

NIOU: The - while the lieutenant governor then takes over his position, unless, of course, the Senate then finds him not guilty.

INSKEEP: is there any doubt in your mind that lawmakers are going to go ahead and that you have the votes to go ahead?

NIOU: I believe that we have the votes to go ahead. I think that this report, you know, basically has really been very damning. It's very clear what happened here. A very powerful man used his power to sexually harass, grope and intimidate women who work for him. Another report had already shown that the governor lied to us and had basically given us, you know, inaccurate numbers based off of nursing home deaths. We have seen clear violation of his abuse of his own staff, dealing with his book deal. We have seen, you know, abuse after abuse after abuse.

INSKEEP: What did you make of the governor's video response in which he said, I just kind of talk to people a certain way, I kiss people on the cheek, I put my hands on people?

NIOU: I mean, Cuomo was gaslighting New Yorkers now the same way that he gaslit the women that he abused. It took 179 witnesses, as you said, and a statewide investigation by the attorney general, and in that report, it said that at least 40 witnesses, who swore under oath, under penalty of imprisonment for lying, that they witnessed conduct from Governor Cuomo that the attorney general said amounts to a pattern of criminal activity, clear violations of state and federal law. And the governor's response has essentially been, this is all rigged. I didn't do anything. Fake news.

New York deserves a lot better than that. And when voters are seeing behavior that was condemned when Donald Trump does it but ignored or minimized when Governor Cuomo does it, they're going to think that the system is rigged. And Governor Cuomo has made clear that he won't leave on his own, as you just said, and it's up to the Legislature to take the steps necessary to remove him.

INSKEEP: Do you believe that he's going to stick with this position that he won't resign, that he's going to make you go through the process?

NIOU: I do believe that. That is in his nature. And I think that, you know, he had the opportunity after the report had come out to actually resign, but instead, during his press conference, he decided to play a slideshow to gaslight the rest of New York.

INSKEEP: I am sure that you are taking this position because of the principle involved, because of the accusers, because of the victims involved, but let me ask about the politics of this. Is it important for Democrats, in a very big and very important state, to manage this issue prior to the 2022 elections so that Cuomo is not around during that election?

NIOU: I think that it's important that we, like you were saying, hold folks accountable. This isn't a Democratic or Republican issue; it's an accountability issue. And I think that if we're holding, you know, folks accountable, this is how it looks like. And New Yorkers should be able to trust that their governor and their Legislature are working in their best interests. Right now we can't even - we have things on the table that are still important. We have folks who are becoming homeless as we speak. We have people who are starving as we speak because of this pandemic. And what Governor Cuomo has done is a clear abuse of power, not just in terms of sexually harassing at least 10 women who work for him but in his attempts to use the power of his office to punish and retaliate against people who spoke out. And remember that every day that we don't impeach is another day that his staffers are in danger.

INSKEEP: New York State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou. Thanks so much.

NIOU: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.