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Politics

Impeachment Probe into Gov. Cuomo Could Take “Months”

ALBANY, N.Y. — It could take "months" to determine whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo should be impeached after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct  and questions remain about his administration's undercounting COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, the chair of the state Assembly's judiciary committee said Tuesday.

Chair Charles Lavine said lawyers on behalf of the committee will meet with witnesses and examine documents to "assess whether there's evidence that the governor has engaged in conduct that justifies articles of impeachment." A team of lawyers from Manhattan law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP is leading the investigation.

"Given the breadth and seriousness of the issues under investigation, we expect that the timing will be in terms of months rather than weeks," Lavine said in a judiciary committee meeting, which was streamed in an audio-only broadcast Tuesday morning. 

New York has only impeached a governor once in 1913. The state's constitution doesn't define an impeachable offense, and it doesn't require the Assembly to investigate a governor before voting to send articles of impeachment to the Senate. 

Key issues for the legislative impeachment probe remain unresolved including how long the investigation will take, whether lawmakers will hold public hearings, if the committee will release a report with its findings to the public and how the committee will decide what constitutes an impeachable offense.

The majority of state lawmakers and members of New York's Congressional Delegation have  called on Cuomo to resign as he faces allegations of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and suppressing data to downplay the number of nursing homes residents who died of COVID-19. 

The governor has denied touching anyone inappropriately and apologized if he made anyone feel uncomfortable. He has also said his administration should have released data earlier but wanted to verify each death.

Dozens of lawmakers have raised concern over the governor's acknowledgement that he "unintentionally" offended others with his behavior, as well as his top aide's statement that the administration didn't release data about nursing home resident deaths to lawmakers because of fear that former President Trump's administration would "use it against us." 

Few Assembly Democrats are publicly calling for impeachment now, as federal prosecutors scrutinize the Cuomo administration's handling of nursing home data and the state attorney general's office investigates sexual harassment and misconduct allegations. 

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said an investigation addresses demands from several dozen Assembly Democrats who have said they want to await the results of ongoing investigations before calling on the governor to resign or be impeached. 

"We are dealing with life, liberty, reputations, legacies, et cetera," said Assembly member Latrice Walker.

But critics are raising concerns that the investigation is buying time for Cuomo, and that the choice of the law firm leading the judiciary committee's investigation is a conflict of interest because of ties to the three-term Democratic governor.

Former partner Dennis Glazer is a Cuomo political appointee who receives a retirement pension from the firm. He's also married to the state's chief judge, Janet DiFiore, who would sit on the impeachment court in the Senate. 

Both Lavine and Davis Polk & Wardwell attorney Martine Beamon said they reviewed potential conflicts of interest and decided there aren't any. Neither spoke in detail about what led to that decision.

The firm's lawyers said that Glazer hasn't had any involvement in the firm's business or activities since his 2012 retirement.

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