New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Lavine offered a few more details about their process to consider whether they will draft articles of impeachment against Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“The assembly is working to expeditiously conclude our investigation which covers a broad range of issues issues so we can bring this sad chapter of our state’s history to a conclusion,” Heastie said. He added, “As I stated last week, the governor has clearly lost the confidence of the majority members of the New York State Assembly. The Attorney General’s report lays out in painful detail the many instances and ways in which he reportedly harassed and created a hostile work environment for the employees of the executive chamber and others he came in contact with.”
The Assembly’s Judiciary Committee was already planning to meet on Monday before Attorney General Letitia James released a 168-page report that substantiated the claims of 11 women who said that they were sexually harassed by the governor last week.
Lavine explained that the 21-member committee is “closely reviewing the attorney general’s findings,” and has been getting the tens of thousands pages of transcripts used by the AG’s team for their report, plus hundreds of thousands of pages related to the nursing home scandal, another one of the controversies the committee is investigation. The documents will be held in a secure location, and committee members will be able to access the materials.
In addition to the sexual harassment claims and undercounting of nursing home deaths, Lavine reminded reporters they were also considering how the governor may have used state resources to write his pandemic memoir and that he may have used his position to obtain rapid COVID tests for family members and other associates when those resources were scarce.
After two more committee meetings on August 16th and August 23rd, Lavine said that they would have public hearings with experts who will be able to discuss sexual assault as well as impeachment. If the Assembly votes with at least a 76-member majority to proceed with an impeachment, then there will be an impeachment trial with 62 members of the State Senate (Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins is excluded) and the seven-member Court of Appeals.
Cuomo would also have at least 30 days to respond to an impeachment.
READ MORE: How Impeachment Works In New York State
“The question here isn’t simply shall we rush to impeach, the question is can we present… a compelling and comprehensive case at the court of impeachment?” he said. “A hundred years from now, and 200 years from now, people will look back at the this and people will say did they do the right thing? Our intention—this is a bipartisan statement for everyone on the committee— is to do what is right.”
According to Lavine, members of the Judiciary Committee will be able to review all the evidence—including anything Cuomo wants to share (he has until 5 p.m. on August 13th to submit those materials)—and also hear from the Assembly’s attorneys from the firm Davis Polk about their conclusions.
“I’m impressed at comprehensive and thorough nature” of the AG’s report, Lavine said. However, determining whether there’s an impeachable offense, “That is a conclusion that is only within the realm and authority of the New York State Assembly.”
He reiterated that the Assembly has a big responsibility. “If we are going to present a case, assuming there is a trial,” Lavine said, “I think we owe to the people of the state of New York to fully examine underlying evidence and do our best to make sure that it correlates with our evidence. That’s basic trial strategy.”
Pushing back on questions about the timeline and whether they were working fast enough, Lavine said the AG’s report was only released six days ago. “On behalf of the Republican and Democratic members of the judiciary committee, we have examined everything we can up to this date. Every person on this committee…is as serious as can be,” he said. “And I’m also conscious of something else: So many have been the victims of sexual assault. And many of those people have had intense and anxious reactions as a result of this accusation against the governor. It is in the best interests of the people in NYC to move expeditiously, which is what we have been doing.”
Heastie, who had said he was “heartbroken” over the details of abusive behavior outlined in the AG’s report, flatly denied a report that he might be working on a deal for Cuomo to impeachment if the governor agreed not to make a fourth run for governor. “I am not negotiating a deals,” the Assembly Speaker said. “I’m not part of any discussions or plan to be part of any discussions about cutting deal.”
And while he’s referenced that most Democrats in the Assembly have lost their confidence in Cuomo, Heastie suggested that he’s considering the sentiments of the Republicans—who are eager to impeach—as well to move the process along.
“You want to make sure things are done right, but also in an expeditious manner,” he said. “I believe this will be dealt with in weeks, not months. You want to make sure that no one can say they were treated unfairly.”
Cuomo has denied the findings from the AG’s report, saying he never acted inappropriately, suggesting that the women misinterpreted the actions of a 63-year-old man of another generation whose Italian-American heritage made his more physical in his interactions. His private attorney Rita Glavin has also suggested the AG’s report is flawed. During an interview on Sunday, Glavin emphasized that the governor was looking forward to the opportunity to respond to the accusations in the Assembly.