So, about that Cuomo impeachment report
New York Assembly members are in the dark about exactly when the public will get to review their chamber’s investigation – or lack thereof.
The Assembly has committed to releasing its much-anticipated report into alleged wrongdoing by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo sometime in the coming weeks, though no one appears to know for sure exactly when. “It's really hard to pinpoint a day,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx told reporters in Buffalo Tuesday. “I just know that they're getting towards the end." The release of a final report would mark the end of a six-month impeachment investigation that began after multiple women accused the former governor of sexual misconduct, eventually resulting in the governor’s resignation. But the report might be disappointing to those hoping for new information.
City & State reached out to all 21 members of the Judiciary Committee and heard back from six of them or their spokespeople. The consensus among those members was that the report was coming though they were in the dark when Assembly leaders would want to release it – or what it would look like. “I have no idea sadly,” Assembly Member Marcela Mitaynes of Brooklyn said in a text. A spokesperson for Republican Assembly Member Mary Beth Walsh of the Capital Region said she is “hopeful” for an update from investigators in the upcoming week. Democratic committee Chair Charles Lavine said the report would be out “very soon.” A spokesperson for Heastie declined to comment.
The Assembly is no longer pursuing impeachment after Cuomo resigned, but Heastie agreed under pressure to release the findings from their impeachment investigation into a range of scandals that erupted earlier this year. They included accusations of unwanted touching, a cover-up of data showing the true extent of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, an abusive work environment and safety concerns at the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge crossing the Hudson River.
The report by Assembly investigators from the law firm Davis Polk appears increasingly unlikely to satisfy a wide range of critics. Allies of the former governor say they have been deprived of due process. Their political opponents say Assembly leaders are not doing enough to hold Cuomo accountable. Witnesses both friendly and unfriendly to the former governor have refused to cooperate with the impeachment probe, further limiting the facts a final report might bring to light in the coming weeks.
“I haven't seen the draft, so I don't know how much detail is going to be involved,” Democratic Judiciary Committee member Phil Steck of the Capital Region said in an interview. “What the committee was getting from its attorneys was not significantly different than what the attorney general was reporting.” Two of the women accusing the governor of sexual harassment – former gubernatorial aides Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett – initially refused to cooperate with Assembly investigators because of their stated lack of faith in Heastie, who they alleged was trying to protect the governor. Boylan later cooperated with Assembly investigators. Bennet confirmed Tuesday she never spoke with them, though she later clarified that her attorney provided some documents. In any case, these are hardly the only ways that a final impeachment report might be limited in what it says about the former governor.
Assembly leaders have also suggested that they would limit their investigations depending on how they intersect with other ongoing investigations by local and federal officials. “... the committee will take all appropriate steps to ensure that this effort does not interfere with various ongoing investigations by the United States Attorney concerning nursing home data; the attorney general concerning the governor's memoir; and local law enforcement authorities in five jurisdictions – Manhattan, Albany, Westchester, Nassau and Oswego – regarding possible criminal incidents of sexual misconduct,” Heastie and Lavine said in an Aug. 16 press release.
Cuomo has indicated he plans to continue to fight the allegations one way or another. His private attorney has launched a new round of attacks on the reliability of accusers like Boylan and Bennett. As the Daily News noted, her rebuttal sidestepped other allegations like the ones from a female state trooper. Cuomo has also hired – to much controversy – former aide Rich Azzopardi as a spokesperson for his campaign, which still has millions of dollars in the bank. Former aides are also complaining about how Gov. Kathy Hochul cut them off weeks ago from taxpayer-funded attorneys for the impeachment probe.
A former top aide to Cuomo said in an interview that the lack of paid legal representation was a deal breaker when it came to cooperating with Assembly investigators, which the former aide argued had no legal right to compel testimony. “I'm not going to spend money out of pocket for the Assembly,” the former aide said. “My options would be like rack up a $50,000 bill so that I could sit with Davis Polk, and God knows what they would twist and take out of context – or say I'm not participating, and save the money.” The former aide noted that investigators only requested an interview after Cuomo resigned.
Call that one more sign that whatever Assembly investigators might say in a final report that could be released in the upcoming weeks, it will hardly be the final word on all the wrongdoing allegedly committed by Cuomo.
Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect the fact Lindsey Boylan has spoken to Assembly impeachment investigators and to clarify that an attorney representing Charlotte Bennett provided documents.
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