A New York State Assembly committee that is conducting an impeachment investigation into Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo publicly met with attorneys for the first time on Tuesday and promised a wide-ranging review of his conduct, with a scope that will go beyond sexual harassment allegations and his handling of nursing home deaths due to Covid-19.
Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Lavine, a Democrat, told committee members and lawyers that the investigation will likely take “months, rather than weeks” and has no set deadline. Greg Andres, an attorney for the committee, said state Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo might produce findings faster than the impeachment probe.
“I think it’s more of a recognition that there’s a parallel process happening. We don’t have control over that process, when that report would come out or not. And we won’t necessarily gear our investigation solely on the timing of that report. I think we want to be aware of it, to the extent possible,” Andres said.
Cuomo has repeatedly denied inappropriately touching anyone and his administration has defended the governor’s handling of nursing homes and data related to deaths among their residents during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. The three-term governor has resisted calls to resign and brushed them off as political maneuvers by his rivals.
Andres, along with attorneys Angela Burgess and Martine Beamon of Davis Polk & Wardwell, the firm which has been named as independent counsel in the investigation, fielded questions on Tuesday from lawmakers during the virtual meeting, which was open to the public.
Several lawmakers asked the attorneys to consider looking into several additional lines of inquiry, including whether Cuomo had a potential financial incentive to withhold the release of data about the nursing home deaths to help the sale of his book about his leadership during the pandemic, retaliatory and intimidating behavior against lawmakers, and alleged sexual discrimination of his staff.
CNN has reached out to the governor’s office regarding these lines of inquiry. At a news conference on Monday, Cuomo said he would not be answering any questions on the investigations while they were ongoing.
Davis Polk attorneys have already had conversations with “relevant parties” about preserving documents for the investigation, Andres said.
Andres said his team will coordinate with the attorney general’s office investigating sexual harassment allegations and federal investigators on any overlap with the FBI and US attorney’s office investigation into Cuomo’s handling of the nursing home deaths.
“I think we want to be in discussions with the different investigators, whether on the state side or the federal side, primarily to make sure we’re not interfering with their investigation, and to let them know to the extent possible what we’re doing so that they’re not interfering with ours,” Andres said.
Lavine said during the meeting that he’s served Cuomo with a cautionary warning not to retaliate against or influence any witnesses involved in the impeachment investigation.
“I served on the governor several days ago a notice of non-retaliation. In other words, putting the governor on notice that he and his employees and allies should take no steps towards intimidating any witness or any potential witness,” Lavine said.
Many lawmakers on the call expressed continued concern over potential conflicts of interest the law firm might have given known connections to the governor.
Beamon told lawmakers during the meeting that she and her colleagues vetted potential conflicts like those posed by critics about Janet DiFiore and her husband Dennis Glazer, who previously worked at the firm for decades. DiFiore has served as chief judge of the New York court of appeals since 2016.
Both DiFiore and Glazer are known to be deeply connected to the governor, but Beamon and Lavine repeatedly reassured the committee that the firm has been thoroughly vetted.