In a moment that will be marked in New York’s history books, Assembly lawmakers outlined what’s next in their impeachment investigation as they look at a multitude of allegations piling up against Governor Andrew Cuomo.
For the first time in more than a century, legislators are considering articles of impeachment against a sitting governor possibly as soon as the end of the month.
The historical significance of the moment was not lost on Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
“For the first time in more than 100 years, the Assembly is undertaking an impeachment investigation of a sitting governor,” Speaker Heastie noted. “Chairman Lavine, members of the Judiciary Committee and my majority colleagues, understand the gravity of the situation that we find ourselves in today. Future generations will look to us and how we conducted ourselves in this moment.”
The Assembly Judiciary Committee, which has been charged with leading the impeachment investigation into Cuomo, met for the first time since the state attorney general released a bombshell investigative report which substantiated claims of at least 11 women who said Cuomo sexually harassed them.
Chairman Charles Lavine outlined a timetable on what’s next in this investigation.
“I understand, I appreciate and I sympathize with the desire to do this and do this as fast as possible, but we still have to comport with constitutional mandates and requirements,” Chairman Lavine said. “One-hundred years from now, 200 years from now, people will look back at this and people will say, ‘did they do the right thing?’ ”
First, Governor Cuomo has until this Friday, August 13, to submit any final documents related to the investigation.
Then for the next two Mondays, August 16 and August 23, the committee will be briefed by impeachment investigators in closed door executive sessions.
Assembly Speaker Heastie says the Assembly has already been reviewing unredacted documents from the attorney general’s investigation since Saturday. However, on August 16, the Assembly Judiciary Committee will also be granted "full access in a secure location" to all the attorney general’s evidence, including recordings of Cuomo's interview with investigators.
After that, the committee will be holding public hearings where testimony will be presented by experts in impeachment and sexual harassment.
There is no set timetable yet on how many public hearings would be held and for how many days/weeks.
Once the committee has reviewed the evidence, then they can decide to bring forward articles of impeachment.
The Assembly would then most likely wait three days before voting on these articles.
If the governor is impeached in the Assembly, Cuomo would then have between 30 to 60 days to prepare his defense for a trial in the state Senate.
During that time, Cuomo would have to temporarily step down as governor and Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul would preside as acting governor.
This means articles of impeachment will not be introduced until at the very earliest end of August or September.
Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, who sits on the impeachment committee, says she would like to see the process move faster.
“I'd like to go faster, but as always, you know, we've been trying to balance thoroughness and accuracy along with the need for speed to bring this to a conclusion,” Assemblywoman Walsh said.
The Assembly Judiciary Committee is not only investigating the sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo, but also if his administration covered up COVID-19 related nursing home deaths, if Cuomo used state resources to help him write his $5.1 million pandemic book, if his office intimidated witnesses from coming forward and more.
Lawmakers have to review almost a half a million documents related to the nursing home issue.
When asked why keep this investigation so broad, Assemblyman David Weprin says there needs to be justice on more than one issue.
“A lot of families and people that died in nursing homes, that to them is the most important issue,” Assemblyman Weprin said.
Since a governor has only been impeached once in New York’s history (William “Plain Bill” Sulzer), Assemblyman Lavine stressed the importance of making sure things are done correctly.
He also faced down criticism that this investigation is too broad and lawmakers should move ahead with impeaching Cuomo on just the sexual harassment allegations.
“Our charge from the speaker was to examine each of those separate events,” Assemblyman Lavine said. “I don't want to start to discuss the art involved in drawing articles of impeachment yet, we've still got a couple of steps to take before we're in that position. But I'm fully confident that should the committee vote to pursue impeachment, the articles of impeachment will be airtight.”
Assemblyman Lavine also clarified that a crime does not need to be committed for articles of impeachment to be introduced, they only have to prove corruption of office.
William Sulzer, New York’s one sitting governor who has been impeached, was never charged criminally. He was impeached for official misconduct and more.