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Harassment scandal: Cuomo's top aide resigns as NY governor stares down impeachment

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
In this file photo Melissa DeRosa (R), Secretary to the Governor, listens as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during his daily Coronavirus press briefing at SUNY Upstate Medical University on April 28, 2020 in Syracuse, New York. (Photo by AFP)

Andrew Cuomo’s top aide Melissa DeRosa has resigned following a report by the state attorney general that the embattled New York governor sexually harassed 11 women.

DeRosa, secretary to the governor, was named in the report for attempts to cover up Cuomo’s actions and retaliate against one of his accusers. The widening harassment scandal could see the governor being impeached without his top aide beside him.

“Personally, the past two years have been emotionally and mentally trying. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have worked with such talented colleagues on behalf of our state,” DeRosa said in a statement.

She did not give any other specific reason for her resignation.

“I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have worked with such talented and committed colleagues on behalf of our state,” she said.

Prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation after the August 3 report concluded that Cuomo sexually harassed or touched 11 women, including current and former state employees, in violation of the law.

The report depicted a "toxic" workplace environment under Cuomo, which allowed the governor’s behavior to go overlooked.

DeRosa's resignation comes as the state Assembly's Judiciary Committee is expected to convene to lay out a timeline for Cuomo's potential impeachment.

The 38-year-old has been a fierce defender of Cuomo when he faced public criticism. She came under fire for her role in the administration’s underreporting of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes last year.  

DeRosa had been with the Cuomo administration since 2013 and held the highest-ranking appointed position in New York.

Cuomo, who is facing growing calls to resign, has denied any wrongdoing, saying last week that he "never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances."

Scores of Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have urged the governor to step down or face an impeachment battle he probably cannot win.

About two-thirds of state Assembly members have already said they favor an impeachment trial if Cuomo refuses to leave office. 

“I think the majority of us feel that the governor is not in a position to lead the state any longer, and that’s not a temporary position,” said Assembly member John McDonald, a Democrat.

Cuomo’s lawyers, however, have vigorously attacked the credibility and motives of his accusers and promised a drawn-out fight to make sure the governor stays in office.

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