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N.Y. Assembly Impeachment Inquiry For Cuomo Nears Completion

New York Assemblyman Charles D. Lavine, D-Glen Cove, during a public hearing on sexual harassment in the workplace, in Albany, N.Y., on Feb. 12, 2019.
Hans Pennink
Associated Press
New York Assemblyman Charles D. Lavine, D-Glen Cove, during a public hearing on sexual harassment in the workplace, in Albany, N.Y., on Feb. 12, 2019.

The Assembly’s Impeachment Inquiry signaled Thursday that it is in the final stages, requesting attorneys for Governor Andrew Cuomo to submit any additional evidence by the end of the day on August 13. Articles of impeachment could be drawn up as soon as September.

A spokesman for Governor Cuomo said he intends to fully cooperate.

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 asked the attorneys to submit any additional evidence or written accounts that they would like the committee to consider by the close of the business day on August 13.

Judiciary Committee member Phil Steck said 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 added that 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 said 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 then the Assembly would have to vote.”

Steck, who has called on Cuomo to resign, said it would be better if the governor voluntarily left office before all that could happen.

Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, who also called on Cuomo to resign in February when the allegations of sexual harassment first became known, said 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 said the crisis has put the state government in limbo. She said 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 said so far little progress has been made.

“I appreciate when the governor brought his entire administration to bear on gun violence,” Fahy said. “And we’ve got to get back to that.”

Fahy said 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 govern effectively, with minimal transitional hiccups.

Cuomo has not spoken publicly, except for a brief recorded message, since Attorney General Letitia 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 said Cuomo’s office was responding to 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."

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.