New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie laid out the path forward for an impeachment probe into Andrew Cuomo on Monday as the embattled governor’s legal and political challenges mount.
“Our goal is to bring this matter to a conclusion with all due haste,” Heastie told reporters in Albany after the Assembly Judiciary Committee met with investigators looking into sexual harassment and other allegations against Cuomo, a Democrat in his third term.
The committee’s chair, Charles Lavine, said the panel expects that the “process will be completed very soon,” within “the next several weeks.”
“We have made remarkable progress,” he said, adding that there would be public and private hearings in the weeks to come.
Heastie announced last week that the investigation, which began in March, was being expedited in the wake of state Attorney General Letitia James’ report alleging that Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women and subjected some to unwelcome touching.
The speaker said after the report was released, “It is abundantly clear to me that the governor has lost the confidence of the Assembly Democratic majority and that he can no longer remain in office.”
Cuomo has vehemently disputed the allegations, and his lawyer has charged that James’ investigators were “biased” against him. The governor’s lawyers released an 85-page document disputing the allegations, including dozens of pages of photos of Cuomo hugging, kissing and touching other politicians, as well as other politicians making similar hugging and kissing gestures with others — an attempt to show that Cuomo’s behavior was typical among the political elite.
Lavine called James’ report “deeply disturbing,” but noted the overall impeachment probe is more expansive, also focusing on allegations that Cuomo misused state resources to publish a book on leadership during the coronavirus pandemic; that he gave preferential early coronavirus testing to family and friends; and that his administration deliberately underreported the number of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes.
Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing.
The governor has been hit with bipartisan calls to resign since the James report, including from former close ally President Joe Biden, but has refused to budge.
Asked about a report on The City website that Cuomo’s team has been floating the idea he won’t run for re-election if the impeachment inquiry is dropped, Heastie said no one had approached him, but “I’m not negotiating any deals.”
The Assembly announcement came hours after the executive assistant who alleged that Cuomo groped her under her shirt told “CBS This Morning” that she thought what Cuomo did to her “was a crime.”
“He broke the law,” said Brittany Commisso, who’s identified in the attorney general’s report as “Executive Assistant 1.”
Commisso filed a criminal complaint against Cuomo last week.
The James report also concluded that Cuomo’s office had retaliated against one of the women he allegedly harassed, former adviser Lindsey Boylan. Boylan was the first accuser to speak out publicly about what she described as the governor’s “pervasive harassment.”
Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing, and his lawyer has alleged Boylan was a difficult employee who was looking to make a name for herself with the allegations because she was running for Manhattan borough president this year.
In a post Monday on Medium, Boylan, a Democrat, said the publicity allegation “makes absolutely no sense” and she plans to take legal action against Cuomo and his team.
“The attorney general’s report documented how the governor, his inner circle, and people at the highest levels of corporate and non-profit power went to great lengths to discredit me. They are still trying,” Boylan wrote. “I intend to sue the governor and others who were involved in these efforts to smear me.”
Despite both houses of the Legislature being controlled by Democrats, lawmakers have said they believe they have enough votes to impeach Cuomo in the Assembly and convict him in the Senate.
Only one New York governor has been impeached — William Sulzer, who was removed from office in 1913.