Assembly to tap impeachment experts

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo provides a COVID-19 update on Aug. 2, 2020. Courtesy of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Office

ALBANY — The Assembly Judiciary Committee spearheading a scandal-laden impeachment investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo will solidify a more detailed timeline Monday of how long the five-month probe will continue.

A team of attorneys with independent law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP will discuss the ongoing impeachment investigation Monday during an expected lengthy executive session of the Judiciary Committee.

“The process of this committee and our process remains confidential — as it should be,” said Judiciary Committee chair Charles Lavine, D-Glen Cove. “At the appropriate time, and as early as later this month, we will discuss the evidence publicly in an open and transparent matter once the investigation has been completed or is very close to completion.”

Lavine gave brief remarks at the start of a Judiciary Committee meeting Monday before entering executive session with counsel leading the impeachment probe.

Evidence is not publicly released as the investigation continues to protect the confidentiality of witnesses and prevent retaliation — especially critical with probes about potential sexual harassment or assault, Lavine said.

The Judiciary Committee served a formal notice to Gov. Cuomo and the Executive Chamber of non-retaliation March 15 when the impeachment investigation commenced, barring Cuomo and his administration from attempting to intimidate a witness.

“We remain committed to that principal; we will protect the alleged victims,” Lavine said Monday.

Monday’s committee meeting and investigation update comes after former federal prosecutor Joon Kim and Anne Clark, a prominent employment lawyer, published a detailed report confirming the governor sexually harassed at least 11 former and current female state employees.

Cuomo continues to deny the facts in the report and asserts he did nothing illegal.

“We commend the attorney general on her work,” Lavine said. “The findings and content of the report are deeply disturbing and we will review that report in detail, including the underlying evidence, and consider it together with this committee’s own independent investigation.”

Counsel with Davis Polk will update the Assembly committee Monday, Lavine said, about the status of the investigation and the timeline for the committee to make final recommendations to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, and the chamber about removing Cuomo from office.

“We will discuss the process the committee will employ moving forward, including the executive sessions in the weeks to come,” Lavine said.

The attorney general’s office is sharing thousands of documents and other related evidence with the Assembly committee and their hired attorneys as the chamber prioritizes concluding the impeachment investigation as swiftly as possible to vote to remove Cuomo from office.

Paul Fishman of Arnold and Porter LLC, Mitra Hormozi of Walden Mocht and Haran LLP and Rita Glavin of Glavin PLLC, Cuomo’s attorneys, continue to push the narrative that their client was not afforded due process in Kim and Clark’s investigation, overseen by state Attorney General Letitia James’s office, citing numerous inaccuracies in the report.

Brittany Commisso, 33, is a current staffer who went public in an interview with CBS and the Times Union early Monday about her accusations Gov. Cuomo slipped his hand beneath her blouse and cupped her breast during a hug in the Governor’s Mansion last November. Commisso is identified as “Executive Assistant No. 1” in the attorney general’s report.

Albany County sheriff’s investigators are leading a probe into the incident after Commisso filed a report Thursday.

Lavine referred Cuomo’s attorneys’ criticisms of the report to James’s office.

Attorneys from Davis Polk & Wardwell advised Cuomo’s counsel in a letter Thursday the governor and his attorneys have until 5 p.m. Friday to submit evidence for the Assembly Judiciary Committee’s impeachment investigation.

“We will ... allow the governor to provide further information should he choose to do so,” Lavine said. “The governor wants to be treated fairly like anyone else in this country. ...In a court of American law, no one is above the law.”

The committee’s probe includes multiple scandals involving Gov. Cuomo in addition to the sexual harassment, including his administration’s potential underreporting of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, the governor potentially using state resources to publish his $5.1 million pandemic memoir last fall and the governor giving preferential COVID testing to family and close friends early in the pandemic when tests were scarce.

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