President Joe Biden has called on Andrew Cuomo to resign after a damning independent inquiry found the New York governor had harassed multiple women.
Mr Biden’s condemnation of Mr Cuomo came hours after the state’s Attorney General Letitia James said the governor had violated state and federal laws.
In response, Mr Cuomo denied touching anyone inappropriately and vowed to stay in office.
Mr Cuomo could now be impeached, and is also facing a separate criminal probe.
“I think he should resign,” Mr Biden told reporters at the White House on Tuesday. “I understand that the state legislature may decide to impeach. I don’t know that for a fact. I have not read all that data.”
The attorney general’s investigation was commissioned last year after several women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against the governor.
Investigators spent five months speaking to nearly 200 people, including staff members and some of those who made complaints against him. Tens of thousands of documents, texts and pictures were reviewed as part of the inquiry.
“The independent investigation has concluded that Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and in doing so violated federal and state law,” Ms James said.
Mr Cuomo, she said, had engaged in “unwelcome and non-consensual touching and making numerous offensive comments”.
Cuomo ‘ran finger down state trooper’s neck’
In one case, Mr Cuomo and his staff retaliated against a former employee who accused him of wrongdoing, according to Ms James.
Other women described being groped, kissed or sitting on the governor’s lap.
Mr Cuomo allegedly reached under the blouse of an assistant to touch her breast, while another aide said he asked her if she was open to sex with an older man.
The governor stood behind a state trooper in a lift, running his finger down her neck and saying “hey you”, according to investigators.
On top of the allegations of harassment, Mr Cuomo is accused of presiding over a “hostile and toxic work environment”.
Joon Kim, who co-led the investigation, said: “It was a culture where you could not say no to the governor and if you upset him or his senior staff you’d be written off, cast aside or worse.”
In his statement, Mr Cuomo said: “I want you to know directly from me that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.
“I am 63 years old. I have lived my entire adult life in public view. That is just not who I am. And that’s not who I have ever been.”
New York’s senators, the Democrats Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand used the release of the investigation to again call for him to resign.
“Today’s report from the New York State attorney general substantiated and corroborated the allegations of the brave women who came forward to share their stories – and we commend the women for doing so,” they said.
The investigation is civil, rather than criminal, so will not directly lead to charges.
But police could use the report in deciding to take further action and it is also likely to play a key part in a separate impeachment investigation he faces – as well as in a criminal inquiry in Albany, the state’s capital city.
Few allies and fewer options for Cuomo
After a whirlwind of attention earlier this year, the Andrew Cuomo sexual harassment allegations had been held at a low simmer for months. The New York attorney general’s report now brings them roaring back.
Cuomo was able to survive the story’s first wave through a mix of denials, apologies and hunkering down in hopes that the political storm would pass. He seems determined to follow the same strategy again.
Even with the new revelations and the report’s conclusion that the governor engaged in a “pattern” of misconduct, an organised effort to remove Cuomo through legislative impeachment will be a tough task.
Where this report may draw political blood, however, is by further diminishing Cuomo’s prospects for re-election next year. His popularity has been dented, his opponents have multiplied, and the Democratic establishment continues to distance itself from the man who was once one of the party’s top stars.
On Tuesday afternoon President Joe Biden – who had withheld his judgement until now – added his voice to the chorus calling for Cuomo to resign. The governor seems determined to hang on and fight, but with few allies and fewer options, his fate is all but sealed.