NYS Assembly Impeachment Inquiry Nears Completion
The New York state Assembly signaled Thursday that its impeachment inquiry is in the final stages, requesting attorneys for Governor Andrew Cuomo submit any additional evidence by August 13. Articles of impeachment could be drawn up as soon as September. Charles Lavine, the chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, which is conducting the impeachment inquiry, in a letter told the governor’s lawyers that the investigation is “nearing completion” and “will soon consider potential articles of impeachment against your client.” Lavine asks the attorneys to submit any additional evidence or written accounts that they would like the committee to consider by the close of business on August 13.
Judiciary Committee member Phil Steck, a Capital Region Democrat, says in any investigation, the last step is to hear from the accused.
“After the governor responds, if he does respond, the attorneys will have to consider that,” said Steck, who said the committee will then determine what particular issues should be included in articles of impeachment.
“I think it’s difficult to imagine, at this point in time, that sexual harassment would not be one of them,” Steck said.
The impeachment inquiry is also looking into allegations that Cuomo and his top aides covered up the actual number of nursing home deaths from COVID-19 and that the governor improperly used staff to help him write and edit a book, for which he was paid $5 million. It is also investigating whether there were neglected safety issues during the construction of the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, formerly the Tappan Zee Bridge, on the New York Thruway over the Hudson River.
Steck says the committee is on track to be ready to potentially vote on impeachment by the middle of next month.
“I think it’s extremely realistic for the committee to be considering articles of impeachment by early September,” said Steck. “And obviously those would be released to the full assembly and then the assembly would a vote.”
Steck, who has called on Cuomo to resign, says it would be better though, if the governor voluntarily left office before all that could happen.
Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, an Albany Democrat who also called on Cuomo to resign in February when the allegations of sexual harassment first became known, says if the governor continues to stay in office, then the impeachment needs to move ahead as quickly as possible.
“We need to move with all judicious speed on these impeachment proceedings,” Fahy said.
Fahy says the crisis has put the state government in limbo. She says major concerns, including fighting rising gun violence, and the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant, are not receiving enough any attention right now.
Cuomo declared a 30-day state of emergency to combat on gun violence in early July, but Fahy says so far, little progress has been made.
“I appreciated when the governor really brought his entire administration to bear on gun violence,” Fahy said. “And we’ve got to get back to that.”
Fahy says if the governor were to heed the near universal calls for his resignation, she believes Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul would be able to take over the office and governor effectively, with minimal transitional hiccups.
Cuomo has not spoken publicly, except for a brief recorded message, since Attorney General Tish James’ damning report on sexual harassment was released on Tuesday. Thursday he offered a sign that he intends to remain in office, at least for now, and continue to fight.
Paul Fishman, the private attorney hired to represent the governor’s office in the scandals, issued a 13-page legal rebuttal of the AG’s findings that the executive chamber took retaliatory action against one of the 11 women who were sexually harassed by Cuomo. Fishman writes that he is “surprised” that investigators concluded that actions against former staffer Lindsay Boylan were “unlawful retaliation,” and blamed Boylan herself for the governor’s aides’ decision to leak her personnel files to the media. Fishman says Cuomo’s office was responding to a series of negative tweets posted by Boylan.
Boylan has filed a civil suit against the governor, claiming he and his staff illegally retaliated against her complaints of harassment.
Late Thursday, Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said the governor intends to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry and is taking the Assembly at its word that it is doing a “full and thorough review of the complaints.” He said the governor “appreciates the opportunity."