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Cuomo impeachment probe may take months, firm’s ties to governor raise doubts

FILE PHOTO: Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo speaks at the unveiling for the Mother Cabrini statue in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., October 12, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Lavine committed to creating a transparent process in the impeachment investigation against Governor Andrew Cuomo, but said that it would likely take months before reaching a conclusion.

But questions of the integrity of the investigation, to be led by law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, were most prominent during the hearing.

While promising a safe space for the women accusing Cuomo of sexual misconduct, Lavine said during a committee meeting on Tuesday that the inquiry will not be limited to these accusations. The investigation will also take into consideration the scandals pertaining to the Cuomo administration’s handling of COVID-19 nursing home death data, as well as the reported doubts about the structural integrity of the Mario Cuomo Bridge.

Concerns surrounding attorney Dennis Glazer’s association with the both the law firm and Governor Cuomo was dismissed by a representative who stated that Glazer had not been associated with their firm in any capacity for a number of years. The representative stressed that any concerns of a conflict of interest or bias were unfounded in this regard.

He had previously served 31 years at the firm, where he was head of the Litigation Practice.

Glazer was appointed Chair of the Purchase College Council by Governor Andrew Cuomo in August 2019. His wife is Chief Judge of New York State Janet DiFiore, another Cuomo appointee. If the Assembly passes articles of impeachment against the governor, DiFiore would preside over his trial in the state Senate.

But Greg Andres, an attorney at Davis Polk & Wardwell, stressed that the close Cuomo ties will not bind the firm’s ability to conduct an impartial investigation.

“We deal with high profile matters on a daily basis and routinely, and our lawyers understand and we will remind them of the need for confidentiality in these matters,” Andres said. “We certainly understand that, we will not be trying this case or investigating it in the press, and we’ll work with the committee to both balance the need for confidentiality and the need for transparency, I’m hoping that today’s committee meeting goes a long way to making clear to the public exactly what processes are being followed, whether it relates to conflicts, whether it relates to our relationship to the committee, whether it relates to the scope of our investigation, there certainly is a need for transparency, but in the day to day operation of the investigation confidentiality is vitally important and I think both as lawyers in the government in our various roles and as lawyers in private practice, we are particularly understanding and sensitive to that need.”

Polk said the firm would provide updates and reports to the Judiciary Committee on a regular basis as the investigation progresses. Documents will be requested from relevant parties for preservation of evidence, and individuals will be interviewed over time.

In addition, the committee questioned the firm which has been retained by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on how they plan to conduct the investigation and assess evidence for or against Governor Cuomo such as questioning victims in consideration of Attorney General Letitia James’ own investigation.

Lindsey Boylan, a current candidate for Manhattan borough president and the first of eight women to accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment in December, has expressed doubts about the integrity of the assembly’s investigation, claiming Heastie was creating a slow and closed-door process that would likely be drawn out beyond reason.

Correction note: an original version of this story attributed a quote to Davis Polk, but we have learned that it was actually made by Greg Andres. We regret the error.

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