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N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo To Be Stripped Of Pandemic Emergency Powers

NOEL KING, HOST:

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will no longer have the emergency powers he was granted during the early days of the pandemic. Cuomo is accused of sexually harassing at least three women, and his administration is being investigated for allegedly being dishonest about the number of nursing home residents who died of COVID. Some state leaders are now saying he should resign. Dan Clark is with me now. He covers New York state government for WMHT, the PBS affiliate in Albany. Good morning, Dan.

DAN CLARK: Good morning, Noel.

KING: I remember at the beginning of the pandemic, these emergency powers were quite a big deal. What did they allow Cuomo to do?

CLARK: So basically, the Legislature granted him these powers in early March last year, and what they've allowed him to do is basically create and suspend any law that he wants, as it relates to the pandemic. So he hasn't had to go through the Legislature to make these certain directives, like the mask mandate, shutting down businesses, et cetera. The Legislature did have a way to rebut them through a majority vote, but they never took advantage of it. So it was a really far-reaching power that some people were opposed to at the time because of how powerful was. But now we're finally seeing them repeal it about a year later.

KING: Are they repealing it because there are now vaccines available and things with the pandemic have kind of plateaued? Or are they repealing those powers because of all of these other scandals that are now surrounding the governor?

CLARK: So it's all the other scandals.

KING: OK, OK.

CLARK: It started in January, when the attorney general said that the Cuomo administration may have undercounted nursing home residents who died from COVID-19. That started off a big wave of accusations against the governor. And lawmakers have since then been talking about repealing these emergency powers, and that kind of snowballed in the last few days, as the governor was accused of sexual harassment now by three women. And lawmakers at this point just want to send a message more than anything. The powers were going to expire at the end of the month anyway.

KING: OK.

CLARK: But they want to speed that up to make sure that everything gets done as soon as possible.

KING: What is Cuomo saying about the allegations of sexual harassment?

CLARK: So not much, to be honest with you. He hasn't spoken to the public since February 22 at a daily briefing, a public briefing at the state Capitol. And he put out a statement over the weekend that basically tried to not so much dismiss the allegations, but acknowledge them. He's denied inappropriately touching anybody, but he has admitted that some of his behavior at the office may be interpreted by people to be insensitive. He called it playful, but obviously, it made these women uncomfortable. So there's a misinterpretation of his behavior on all sides. And he's saying that he doesn't want people to think that he is trying to sexually harass people but that he's sorry that the women took it that way.

KING: Does anyone think he might resign?

CLARK: A lot of people do. I am one of them. But it really depends on timing. So the governor has avoided scandal in the past on a number of fronts. So at this point, he could either resign by the end of this week or it could be three months. It all depends on its investigation by the attorney general's office. It could happen that he doesn't resign until that investigation is over, but he could want to get out ahead of it and just resign now and get it all over with.

KING: Andrew Cuomo is kind of a tough guy. That's, you know, part of his MO. If he doesn't resign, if he decides to stick it out, could he be impeached?

CLARK: That's a good question, and we just don't know in the Legislature right now. As of now, Democrats, who control both the state assembly and the Senate, don't really seem like they're moving that way towards impeachment. They've taken the position - the leaders in the Legislature have said they want to see this investigation through and see how things play out.

KING: Dan Clark of the PBS station WMHT. Thanks for your reporting, Dan. We appreciate it.

CLARK: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.