N.Y. Assembly Seeks Quick End to ‘Sad Chapter’ Amid Cuomo Probe
Cuomo’s Fate Rests With N.Y. Lawmakers Considering Impeachment
(Bloomberg) -- The New York Assembly is “working expeditiously” to complete its impeachment investigation of Governor Andrew Cuomo and bring a “sad chapter” of the state’s history to a conclusion, Speaker Carl Heastie said.
Assembly members have “no confidence in the governor to remain in office,” Heastie said Monday. He spoke at a press conference following an executive session of the Assembly Judiciary Committee held to discuss its probe of Cuomo.
While Cuomo faces possible criminal charges and civil lawsuits, only impeachment can oust him before he is up for re-election in 2022. The last and only New York governor to be impeached was in 1913.
The Assembly will hold public and private hearings throughout August that will conclude with “a potential vote on articles of impeachment,” Chairman Charles Lavine said. Once articles of impeachment are adopted by the full body, they’ll be served on the governor, and then Cuomo will have a minimum of 30 days before the trial, he said.
Last week, state Attorney General Letitia James ended a separate investigation that lodged 11 harassment claims against Cuomo, a third-term Democrat. James’s office has sent some additional evidence for the harassment portion of the Assembly’s probe.
Lavine on Monday called the harassment allegations against Cuomo “deeply disturbing” on Monday and said that “no one is above the law.” Heastie said he was “heartbroken” over the findings in the James report.
In addition to the harassment claims, the Judiciary Committee is considering whether the Cuomo administration covered up Covid-19 nursing-home deaths, provided relatives with virus testing before it was widely available, mishandled construction of the Mario Cuomo Bridge and misused public resources for a $5 million leadership book. Cuomo, 63, has denied any wrongdoing.
“I think we owe it to the people of New York to make sure that we examine the underlying evidence in the attorney general’s report and to make sure that it correlates or interfaces with our evidence,” Lavine said.
Only the Assembly can conclude whether those are impeachable offenses and if the committee decides to move forward with impeachment, the articles will be “air tight,” Lavine said.
Heastie, who said he hasn’t spoken to the governor in months, said he wouldn’t cut a deal with Cuomo regarding impeachment and that he disagreed with any criticism that the Assembly’s deliberations would buy Cuomo more time.
“We have to assure the public that what we have done was in a constitutional and fair manner,” Heastie said.
Davis Polk & Wardwell, the law firm representing the committee, has said it collected more than 100,000 pages of documents, including emails, texts, and photographs that could become part of an impeachment proceeding.
Starting on Aug. 16 the members of the committee will be granted secure access to the attorney general’s evidence, including witness deposition recordings, transcripts, and investigator’s interview of Cuomo, Lavine said.
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The Assembly has been accused of moving slowly with its investigation. But Cuomo, with a cadre of top lawyers including former U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, is known for being ruthless, so lawmakers say that any case against him has to be airtight.
“We want to make sure we’re right on the law, on the evidence we’re going to put forth to support our articles of impeachment, to make sure there are no loopholes,” Assemblyman Michael Montesano, the highest ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said in an interview. “The governor says so far that he’s going to fight it to the last step and he’s very aggressive in that. We have to make sure that everything’s lined up from the start and there’s no loopholes for him to get out of.”
Since the James report was released, Cuomo has remained isolated, resisting pressure to resign from his closest allies and the nation’s highest leaders. Lawyers for the governor say he has no plans to step down and that he felt “ambushed” by James’s report.
On Sunday, Cuomo’s highest-ranking aide, Melissa DeRosa, resigned. She called the last two years working for Cuomo “emotionally and mentally trying,” in a statement provided to Bloomberg News.
A former Cuomo aide who filed a criminal complaint accusing the governor of grabbing her breast at the Executive Mansion spoke publicly for the first time in a television interview that aired Monday on CBS News. She said Cuomo broke the law and had to be “held accountable.”
Cuomo has until Aug. 13 to turn over any evidence or other materials to the panel and his office has said he will cooperate. His personal attorney, Rita Glavin, has criticized the attorney general’s investigation, saying it ignored some evidence and was “one -sided”. She called on James to release interview transcripts, saying she doesn’t have access to evidence vital to an impeachment trial.
The son of three-term former Governor Mario Cuomo, Cuomo has been part of New York politics for decades. He has led the state since 2011, faces no term limits, has amassed an $18.5 million campaign war chest and retains broad authority over local governments, including New York City, the nation’s financial center.
If the committee moves forward on articles of impeachment, the question of impeaching Cuomo would go to the full Assembly.
Cuomo would be required to temporarily step down if those lawmakers vote to impeach, making Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul the acting governor.
If the Assembly approves articles of impeachment, Cuomo will have access to additional information before the trial, Lavine said.
The state Senate would have 30 to 60 days to start an impeachment trial. A conviction -- and removal from office -- would require approval by two-thirds of senators and judges voting.
“I understand there are some people who want impeachment voted on now to remove him from office,” Lavine said. “However, if we are not in a position to present our best case, he could very well win in the court of impeachment. And for everyone who’s concerned about him being in office now, if he wins and he returns to office unfettered, that is another danger.”
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