Lawmakers give Cuomo deadline in impeachment probe
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — State lawmakers told Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday that their ongoing investigation of his conduct in office is almost done and gave him a deadline of Aug. 13 to provide additional evidence as they moved toward what seemed like an increasingly inevitable impeachment battle.
Since March, the Assembly’s judiciary committee has been investigating whether there are grounds to impeach the Democratic governor over sexual harassment allegations, misleading the public about COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes and using state resources and staff for his $5 million book deal.
In a letter sent Thursday, the law firm leading the investigation, Davis Polk & Wardwell, reminded Cuomo’s legal team that it has subpoenaed certain documents and expects “full compliance from the governor,” but that his time to respond was almost up.
“We write to inform you that the Committee’s investigation is nearing completion and the Assembly will soon consider potential articles of impeachment against your client,” they wrote. “Accordingly, we invite you to provide any additional evidence or written submissions that you would like the Committee to consider before its work concludes.”
The letter was released publicly by Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Lavine, a Long Island Democrat.
Cuomo’s spokesman, Rich Azzopardi, said in a statement that the governor would cooperate.
“The Assembly has said it is doing a full and thorough review of the complaints and has offered the Governor and his team an opportunity to present facts and their perspective,” he wrote. “The Governor appreciates the opportunity.”
The Judiciary Committee has scheduled its next meeting on the matter for Monday.
Findings from an independent investigation overseen by state Attorney General Letitia James released earlier this week said Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women, and that his administration retaliated against at least one of them for going public with her allegations.
Cuomo has denied making any inappropriate sexual advances and insists the findings don’t reflect the facts. He’s resisted numerous calls for his resignation from most of New York’s top Democrats and from national figures like President Joe Biden.
The governor has not made himself available to reporters since the report’s release Tuesday and hasn’t appeared in public. Photos published by the New York Post showed him working Thursday from a lounge chair by the pool at the Executive Mansion in Albany.
His office continued to churn out press releases about various administration initiatives, as if to project a sense that Cuomo was continuing to govern as usual, but his political isolation was clear.
At least 97— of the Assembly’s 150 members said they would impeach Cuomo if he doesn’t resign, according to a tally by The Associated Press based on interviews and public statements. Only a simple majority is needed to begin an impeachment trial.
Asked whether Cuomo could try to horse-trade his way out of impeachment or call in favors, Sen. Brad Hoylman, a New York City Democrat, said there wasn’t a pathway for that.
“I know the political animal he is. I’m sure if he could do that, he would, but I don’t think anybody’s even talking to him,” he said. “This is someone who’s cornered politically with nowhere to go but out the door. The sooner he comes to that realization, the better.”
Dozens of lawmakers told The Associated Press in recent days that they’re worried that Cuomo is too distracted to lead.
Thursday afternoon, the state’s education commissioner, Betty Rosa, sent a letter to the state health commissioner suggesting the administration had let the scandal get in the way of important policy decisions about reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health Commissioner Howard Zucker had announced earlier in the day that the state would not release long-promised reopening guidance and would instead leave the matter to local school districts. Rosa asked him to reconsider.
“The circumstances enveloping the Executive Chamber this week should not prevent the Department of Health from the execution of its responsibilities to the public, as has been promised by the Governor’s office for months,” her department said in a press release.
District attorneys in Manhattan, suburban Westchester, and Nassau counties and the state capital of Albany said they asked for investigative materials from the inquiry to see if any of the allegations could result in criminal charges.
Oswego County District Attorney Greg Oakes added himself to the list of interested prosecutors Thursday, telling WSYR-TV that he will begin investigating an incident involving a woman who testified that Cuomo ran two fingers across her chest and grazed the area between her shoulder and breasts at an upstate conservation event in May 2017.
One of Cuomo’s accusers said he groped her breast. Others have said he gave them unwanted kisses or touched parts of their bodies in ways that made them uncomfortable.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the Assembly’s judiciary committee will first wrap up its probe “as quickly as possible” before the chamber votes on articles of impeachment.
But it’s far from clear how long that will take: Several judiciary committee members estimate weeks or even a month.
Clark has asked legislative leaders whether the Assembly could submit articles of impeachment on harassment first and add more findings later. But committee member Tom Abinanti, a Democrat, said he supports waiting to end the probe and drawing up comprehensive articles that could hold up to legal scrutiny.
Cuomo also faces scrutiny from the state ethics commission, which can impose civil penalties for violations of state ethics law or refer criminal matters to prosecutors.
The New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics is looking into sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo, his administration’s handling of COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing home, his use of state resources and staff for his $5 million pandemic book deal and his administration’s efforts to rush COVID-19 tests for members of Cuomo’s circle during spring 2020 when testing was scarce, according to agency spokesperson Walt McClure.
McClure couldn’t confirm whether JCOPE has opened a formal investigation, but said that “investigative matters” concerning the governor are pending before the agency.
Associated Press writers David Klepper in Providence, Rhode Island, and Mike Catalini in Trenton, New Jersey, contributed to this report.