What to Know
- Over the next "several weeks" the members of the Judiciary Committee expect to shift through thousands of documents and mountains of evidence stemming from the state's sexual harassment probe and the ongoing investigation by the attorneys selected by the Assembly
- Nearly two-thirds of the legislative body have already said they favor an impeachment trial if he won’t resign. Those lawmakers may not get that chance until next month
- The assembly's investigation has focused on sexual harassment and misconduct, the administration’s past refusal to release how many nursing home residents died of COVID-19, the use of state resources for Cuomo's $5 million book deal and efforts to prioritize COVID-19 tests for the governor's inner circle in spring 2020, when testing was scarce
The firestorm surrounding Gov. Andrew Cuomo entered a new week with eyes laser focused on the possibility of impeachment with the embattled lawmaker showing no interest in resigning in the face of nationwide pressure.
An Assembly committee tasked with investigating his many allegations of wrongdoing -- whose investigation started almost in tandem with the attorney general's -- met for several hours Monday morning to discuss impeachment proceedings almost one week after Attorney General Letitia James said the independent probe corroborated accounts from 11 women.
Nearly two-thirds of the legislative body have already said they favor an impeachment trial if he won’t resign. Those lawmakers may not get that chance until next month.
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Over the next "several weeks" the members of the Judiciary Committee expect to shift through thousands of documents and mountains of evidence stemming from the state's sexual harassment probe and the ongoing investigation by the attorneys selected by the Assembly. Two more executive session meetings have been scheduled for Aug. 16 and 23.
"Beginning next week, committee members will be granted access in a secure location to the full evidence" provided by the attorney general's office and collected by the committee's investigators, Charles Lavine, chair of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters Monday following the morning's executive session.
That evidence includes more than half a million pages of documentation related to the governor's nursing home scandal, Lavine said.
"These sessions will conclude with a vote on articles of impeachment within a very short period," he specified.
After the committee investigates the evidence collected to date, the group wants to hear public testimony after the second executive session from experts related to sexual assault and harassment, as well as the impeachment process as it pertains to the state constitution. Then Lavine expects the committee will be ready to produce a report and articles of impeachment to be voted on by the Assembly.
"I believe this is going to be dealt with in weeks and not months," Speaker Carl Heastie said at Monday's press briefing, saying "it's been very clear the majority of members have no confidence in (Cuomo) remaining in office."
Heastie sought to tamp down speculation that a delay could give Cuomo an opportunity to negotiate a more graceful exit from office, perhaps by offering not to run for reelection.
“I am not negotiating any deals,” he said.
The Assembly's investigation has focused on sexual harassment and misconduct, the administration’s past refusal to release how many nursing home residents died of COVID-19, the use of state resources for Cuomo's $5 million book deal and efforts to prioritize COVID-19 tests for the governor's inner circle in spring 2020, when testing was scarce.
Lavine also made it clear that if the governor resigns from his post before the commencement of a trial in the senate, an "impeachment itself would be moot."
The committee previously gave the governor an Aug. 13 deadline to provide any evidence he wants before the committee considers articles of impeachment. Cuomo's top spokesman, Rich Azzopardi, has said the governor would present its case before the Assembly.
Cuomo will be going into the fight without his former top aide, Melissa DeRosa, who resigned late Sunday. Roberta Kaplan, leader of the Time's Up sex assault survivor's group, resigned on Monday for offering advice to Cuomo.
Cuomo Under Fire
Some lawmakers and accusers' advocates have called for an impeachment vote in days, but committee members say a completed report based on its own investigation may not be ready until next month. State law requires at least 30 days between an Assembly impeachment vote and Senate impeachment trial.
Assembly member Amanda Septimo called for urgency, saying Cuomo was damaging the Democratic Party nationally.
“I’m willing to put money on how soon we see Cuomo’s face on an attack mailer somewhere in Ohio,” she said.
However, the chairman of the state Judiciary Committee said they will look to gather evidence behind the attorney general's report.
"I would not want to rely solely on the report of the attorney general, as good as it is, to make a case," said Committee Chair Charles Levine. He added that the committee wanted to make sure any articles of impeachment were “airtight" as he anticipates "the governor and his attorneys will challenge everything."
Other legislators said they are trying to act as responsibly as possible.
"I wish we could move expeditiously...but as a survivor, I know there is nothing more important than actually getting them the justice they deserve," said Assembly member Catalina Cruz, of Queens.
Dozens of state lawmakers who were once hesitant to call for Cuomo’s resignation or impeachment told the AP in recent interviews that they were swayed by the heft of the report.
“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 whose district includes Albany.
Cuomo lawyer, Rita Glavin, said Saturday that he had no plans to resign. She told MSNBC in an interview Monday that the governor "has made clear in his testimony to the attorney general's investigators, he doesn't dispute some of the allegations," and that some of the allegations "do not rise to the level of sexual harassment." Glavin said that Cuomo will be speaking on the allegations "soon," but did not have an exact date.
She called the attorney general's report “shoddy" and “biased” and “an ambush,” claiming it favors the accusers.
“Everyone’s pushing the governor to resign based on a report that has not been vetted and that people are taking to be 100% true," Cuomo attorney Rita Glavin said Monday evening on CNN, an interview in which she questioned Commisso's motives without evidence or specifics.
Advisers close to Cuomo don’t expect him to give up, even as his circle of allies willing to speak up for him in public shrinks. But even once-loyal Democratic allies say they don't see him surviving.
"Just politically, this is the Titanic. It’s just not going to float again," said state Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs.
While James said her investigation into Cuomo was technically a civil one, it opened the door for other agencies to investigate behavior she said qualified as criminal in nature.
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said Saturday that Cuomo could face misdemeanor charges if investigators substantiate the executive assistant's complaint. At least five district attorneys have asked for materials from the attorney general’s inquiry to see if any of the allegations could result in criminal charges.
The governor has until Friday to present evidence he wants to be considered by lawmakers. Cuomo has denied allegations against him and in a news conference Friday afternoon, the legal team for the governor specifically denied the claims now at issue in Albany County.
Also on Monday, “CBS This Morning” broadcast the first TV interview from the executive assistant who accused Cuomo of groping her breast.
In her first public interview in which she identified herself, Brittany Commisso told CBS and the Times-Union newspaper, of Albany, that what Cuomo did was a crime and that he “needs to be held accountable.”
Commisso has said Cuomo reached under her shirt and fondled her when they were alone in a room at the Executive Mansion last year and on another occasion rubbed her rear end while they posed for a photo. She was the first woman to file a criminal complaint against Cuomo.
“He broke the law,” she said in an excerpt of an interview. "I exactly remember looking down, seeing his hand, which is a large hand, thinking to myself,' Oh my God, this is happening.'"
Meanwhile, another accuser, Lindsay Boylan, alleged DeRosa and the governor's office tried to retaliate against her, which they deny.
"I intend to sue the Governor and others who were involved in these efforts to smear me," Boylan wrote in a Medium post Monday.
And amid allegations that the governor inappropriately touched a female state trooper and had her improperly transferred to his personal detail — allegations Cuomo has yet to answer — the New York State Troopers Union called on Cuomo to resign, saying that' having to continue to protect the Governor under the current circumstances puts our members in an extremely difficult position."