The New York Legislature’s impeachment investigation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo is likely to take “months,” the chair of the Assembly’s judiciary committee said Tuesday.
Cuomo has resisted calls for his resignation after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment. He’s also facing outrage over his administration’s decision to withhold information about COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.
Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Lavine, a Long Island Democrat, said the legal team hired to investigate Cuomo’s actions will meet with witnesses and examine documents to “assess whether there’s evidence that the governor has engaged in conduct that justifies articles of impeachment.”
“Given the breadth and seriousness of the issues under investigation, we expect that the timing will be in terms of months rather than weeks,” Lavine said in a judiciary committee meeting, which was streamed in an audio-only broadcast Tuesday morning.
New York has only impeached a governor once, in 1913.
It isn’t clear yet how much of the Assembly’s investigation will be transparent to the public. The Judiciary Committee hasn’t said yet whether it will hold public hearings.
The Committee on Tuesday also promised to set up a hotline for any witnesses of Cuomo's alleged behavior to call, and sent Cuomo's office a notice of non-retaliation that is designed to protect whistleblowers.
Cuomo faces allegations that he sexually harassed or behaved inappropriately toward several women, including two current members of his staff. The accusations range from groping under a woman’s shirt and planting unwanted kisses to asking unwelcome personal questions about sex and dating.
The governor has denied touching anyone inappropriately and apologized if he made anyone feel uncomfortable. He has said his administration should have released complete data about nursing home deaths earlier but withheld some fatality statistics because they needed to be verified.
A faction of lawmakers who want Cuomo to quit now have complained that the investigation is buying time for Cuomo. Others have said he deserves thorough due process.
“We are dealing with life, liberty, reputations, legacies, et cetera,” said Assembly member Latrice Walker.
New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said she didn't view it "as a delay, I think of it as their process." She said that investigators with the attorney general's office have already interviewed several accusers.
The team of lawyers hired by the Assembly to investigate Cuomo includes former federal prosecutor Greg Andres, who was part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating foreign meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Other members of the team are a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan, Martine Beamon, and white collar defense and investigations lawyer Angela Burgess.
All three lawyers are members of the Manhattan law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP.
Some of Cuomo’s critics, including some of the women who have accused him of wrongdoing, had assailed the choice of that firm on the grounds that one of its retired partners, Dennis Glazer, was a Cuomo political appointee and is married to the state’s chief judge, Janet DiFiore, who would sit on any impeachment court. DiFiore was also appointed by Cuomo.
Both Lavine and Beamon said they reviewed potential conflicts of interest and decided there aren’t any. Glazer hasn’t had any involvement in the firm’s business or activities since his 2012 retirement, the firm’s lawyers said.
Attorney General Letitia James is also investigating the sexual harassment allegations, and the governor's office said they would be conducting their own separate investigation as well.
The attorney general's office on Tuesday addressed concerns voiced by the attorneys for accuser Charlotte Bennett that the investigation done by James' office could be compromised by the governor's office's parallel investigation.
The attorney general's office said that "Survivors deserve to have their stories heard without interference. Our investigation will include a thorough and independent examination of the facts, period. We will continue to work diligently, and will publicly disclose our findings so that there can be transparency and accountability devoid of any external influence in this matter."