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Assembly Could Conclude Impeachment Investigations in 'Weeks'

NEW YORK NOW - Hearings on the impeachment of Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be held this month to consider whether the Assembly Judiciary Committee will draft articles of impeachment against the three-term governor.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters Monday that he anticipated the end of their impeachment investigation to arrive in weeks, rather than months.

“You want to make sure things are right, but also done in an expeditious manner,” Heastie said.  “And, you know, I believe that this is going to be dealt with in weeks, and not months.”

The Judiciary Committee, which was charged with conducting the impeachment investigation in March, met Monday to discuss next steps for the probe, including when they might wrap up the inquiry and what would be the scope of any articles of impeachment.

But that doesn’t mean the Assembly is guaranteed to draft, and consider, articles of impeachment against Cuomo.

Assemblymember Tom Abinanti, D-Westchester, said in an interview Monday that some members of the Judiciary Committee are reserving their position on impeachment until the probe is done.

“I don’t believe that the members of the Judiciary committee have made up their minds about whether there should be an impeachment,” Abinanti said.

The Assembly has been under new pressure in recent days to move on impeachment against Cuomo after the Attorney General’s Office released a bombshell report last week, declaring multiple allegations of sexual harassment made against Cuomo to be credible.

But Judiciary Chair Charles Lavine, a Democrat from Long Island, said Monday that the committee wouldn’t be phased by calls to expedite the process, saying they’d rather have an airtight case against Cuomo if they choose to vote on impeachment.

That’s because, if the Assembly approves articles of impeachment, they’ll have to present their case to the Senate, where Cuomo would face a trial.

“The question is, can we present — should that occur —  a compelling and comprehensive case at the Court of Impeachment?” Lavine said. “I understand and I appreciate and 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.”

Unlike the investigation from the Attorney General’s Office, the scope of the Assembly’s impeachment investigation into Cuomo covers both the multiple sexual harassment allegations made against the governor this year, and a series of other inquiries as well.

That’s expected to include the state’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic, whether Cuomo used state resources to write his book last year, and whether the administration covered up warnings about the structural integrity of the Mario Cuomo Bridge.

It’s unclear how much the latter topics will play into potential articles of impeachment against Cuomo, or if they’ll be more focused on the allegations of sexual harassment.

After New York Attorney General Letitia James released her report, finding those claims to be credible, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a statement that their they would be moving to wrap up the impeachment probe as soon as possible.

“It is abundantly clear to me that the Governor has lost the confidence of the Assembly Democratic majority and that he can no longer remain in office,” Heastie said. “Once we receive all relevant documents and evidence from the Attorney General, we will move expeditiously and look to conclude our impeachment investigation as quickly as possible.”

Lavine, the same day, sent a letter to Cuomo’s attorneys, asking them to hand over any exculpatory evidence in preparation to defend against articles of impeachment that could be drawn up by the Assembly in the coming weeks.

“We write to inform you that the Committee’s investigation is nearing completion and the Assembly will soon consider potential articles of impeachment against your client,” Lavine wrote, giving them a deadline of Friday, Aug. 13 to produce those materials.

Cuomo has said he’ll cooperate with the Assembly’s impeachment probe, signaling that he has no plans to resign before the investigation has concluded.

It’s been suggested by supporters of impeachment that, rather than consider a broad scope of allegations against Cuomo, the Judiciary Committee could focus solely on the sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo to speed things up.

But Lavine said Monday that, not only were they assigned to conduct a broad investigation into Cuomo, they also want to have a full case against him if they move to impeach.

“Our charge from the speaker was to examine each of those separate events,” 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 are in that position.”

There’s also the chance that Cuomo could resign before the Assembly considers his impeachment. That wouldn’t prohibit the Assembly from moving forward with the impeachment process, which could allow the Senate to bar Cuomo from public office.

“We may very well have the authority to do that. And I wouldn't discount that for a moment,” Lavine said. “There would be the opportunity in the Court of Impeachment to prohibit him from ever, again, occupying statewide office.”

But Lavine also said that, if Cuomo resigns, it might be moot to pursue impeachment at that point.