The New York State Assembly’s Judiciary Committee met Monday and said articles of impeachment against Gov. Andrew Cuomo could come as early as later this month.
The decision comes six days after New York Attorney General Tish James found Cuomo violated multiple state and federal laws by sexually harassing 11 women, and in one case, sexually assaulting a woman.
Assembly Judiciary Chair Charles Lavine and the committee members have closely studied James' report, which also found the governor fostered a toxic and hostile work environment, where he ruled by bullying, fear and intimidation.
“The findings, the content of the report, are deeply disturbing,” Lavine said.
The committee met for nearly three hours in closed session, where they heard a progress report from the Davis Polk law firm that is conducting the Assembly’s parallel investigation.
Afterward, Lavine announced the committee would meet again for the next two Mondays, and after that hold public hearings with experts on sexual harassment and on impeachment proceedings. Lavine said he’s not trying to slow the process, but he said the Assembly is conscious that the public, and future historians will be watching, and they want to do it right.
“There is no primer on how to do an impeachment,” Lavine said.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who said shortly after James released her report that the governor has lost the confidence of Assembly Democrats, said articles of impeachment could be considered in a matter of weeks.
Heastie denied published reports that Cuomo was seeking to make a deal with the Assembly to perhaps end the impeachment inquiry in exchange for the governor agreeing not to seek a fourth term in office.
“I am not negotiating any deals,” Heastie said. “I am not part of any discussions or plan to be part of any discussions about cutting deals.”
Lavine and Heastie said Cuomo will be given a fair opportunity to present his side of the events. The committee has asked Cuomo and his aides to provide all documents and testimony by the close of business on Friday.
“If the Assembly approves articles of impeachment, Governor Cuomo will be afforded additional access to information and additional opportunities to participate during the trial phase,” Lavine said.
The trial, known as the Court of Impeachment, would be held in the Senate. The governor would have at least 30 days to put together his case before proceedings could commence.
The governor, through a spokesman, said last week that he “appreciates the opportunity” to give his account of the events.
Lavine indicated that any articles of impeachment might not be limited to James' report on sexual harassment. The impeachment inquiry committee is also looking at allegations that Cuomo used staff to help him write and edit a memoir, for which he was paid $5 million.
It is also looking at the governor’s handling of nursing home policy during the COVID-19 pandemic, where Cuomo and his top aides are alleged to have concealed the true number of deaths of residents. The Assembly is also investigating whether Cuomo favored family and friends with hard-to-get coronavirus tests at the height of the pandemic in New York.
The movement in the Judiciary Committee comes as Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa resigned, saying the past two years have been “emotionally and mentally trying.” DeRosa was named in the report as a key instigator in retaliatory efforts against one of the governor’s accusers, Lindsay Boylan. DeRosa is alleged to have helped engineer the release of some of Boylan’s personnel files to the media.
Alphonso David, a former top counsel to Cuomo who is now head of Human Rights Watch, is also named in the report as helping with the retaliation effort. Board chairs for the group announced that they have hired a law firm to investigate David’s role in leaking Boylan’s private records.
And the leader of the anti-sexual harassment group Times Up also resigned Monday. Roberta Kaplan also advised Cuomo’s staff on how to carry out the retaliation against Boylan.
Also on Monday, Brittany Commisso, referred to in the report as Executive Assistant No. 1, appeared on "CBS This Morning" to detail her allegations that Cuomo groped her, accusations James, in her report, found credible. Commisso spoke to CBS’s Jericka Duncan.
“He thought this was normal, but to me and the other women he did this to, it was not normal,” Commisso told CBS. “It was not welcomed, and it certainly was not consensual.”
Commisso filed a criminal complaint, and the Albany County Sheriff is investigating.