The State Assembly released a report on its impeachment investigation into ex-Governor Andrew Cuomo Monday, Nov. 22, finding the former head of the state sexually harassed women multiple times, used state resources for his $5.2 million pandemic-era book, and withheld data on COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.
The Legislature’s probe was conducted by outside lawyers hired by the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee over the past eight months after the Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie tasked the panel to determine whether Cuomo had engaged in corrupt conduct that warranted impeachment.
“This has been a profoundly sad chapter in New York’s history,” said Heastie in a statement. “I commend Chairman Charles Lavine, the members of the Judiciary Committee and the team at Davis Polk for their hard work and diligence in completing this investigation.”
The committee’s head Assembly Member Charles Lavine said the findings were “extremely disturbing,” rendering Cuomo “not fit for office.”
“This has been a historic undertaking and one that the members of the Judiciary Committee took on with extreme diligence and thoughtfulness,” Lavine said in a statement. “The former governor’s conduct — as shown in this report — is extremely disturbing and is indicative of someone who is not fit for office.”
The 45-page report’s top findings are, first, that the former governor engaged in multiple instances of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, while fostering a toxic work environment.
The allegations of 12 women are detailed in the new report, including former staffers, other state employees, and members of the public, most of which overlap with the allegations detailed in State Attorney Letitia James’s bombshell report from August.
Second, Cuomo used state resources and property to write his book recounting the pandemic dubbed “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The former governor used Executive Chamber staff to write, publish, and promote the book, for which he is slated to reap at least $5.2 million in profits, according to the report.
Third, the investigation found that the Cuomo administration was deliberately withheld the full tally of nursing home deaths in the state Department of Health’s report on the catastrophic toll within the elder care system after the Executive Chamber ordered seniors sick with COVID return to the facilities in March 2020.
During an August 2020 virtual hearing before the State Senate, a Cuomo official apparently tried to get a senior DOH rep to lie to legislators and say that the early pandemic directive came from the agency, not from the governor’s office.
“A senior Executive Chamber official, who was in the room where a senior DOH official was remotely testifying, wrote a message on a whiteboard suggesting that the senior DOH official testify in effect that the March 25 Directive was authored by DOH and that the Executive Chamber was not involved,” reads the report. “This statement was not true, and the senior DOH official did not make such a statement in the testimony.”
The Assembly report also found that Cuomo cannot be impeached after he left office in the State of New York, even though such a move would be legal under the U.S. Constitution and in other states.
“We believe that the determination of staff counsel that the Assembly and Impeachment Court may not lawfully impeach and try a governor after that official has left office,” the report reads.
At an unrelated press event in Manhattan Monday morning, Governor Kathy Hochul — who as Lieutenant Governor took over the state’s top job after Cuomo quit in disgrace — said she supported the Assembly and reaffirmed her pledge for a change of culture in state government.
“We’ve changed the culture from day one, a culture of transparency, accountability, and ensuring that everyone feels respect in the workforce,” Hochul told reporters. “So anyone who works for our administration knows that it’s a whole new day, and I’m proud of that.”
Speaker Heastie asked the Judiciary Committee to look into mounting corruption and sexual harassment allegations in March.
The committee hired attorneys from white-shoe Manhattan-based law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, LLP, to examine more than 600,000 pages of documents involving 200 people, including photographs, text messages, BlackBerry PIN messages, emails, recordings of phone calls, social media accounts, video recordings, memos, and transcripts.
They also considered statements from the governor and his lawyer throughout the investigation, along with James’s investigation which also launched in March and was released on Aug. 3.
James’s report detailed sexual harassment and misconduct allegations against Cuomo by 11 women, including staffers, and the state’s top prosecutor also continues to look into the governor’s controversial book deal.
In a response to the release, longtime Cuomo-spokesman Rich Azzopardi shot back saying the probe was “flawed” because it references the report by James’ office, reiterating his accusation that the AG’s, also conducted by outside lawyers, was politically motivated in light of her run for governor.
“Any report that uses the Attorney General’s politically biased investigation as a basis is going to be equally flawed,” said Azzopardi in a statement. “The truth will come out.”
Cuomo will also have to appear in court in Albany in the new year for allegedly groping former aide Brittany Commisso at the Governor’s Mansion in December 2020.
The former Governor’s representatives have publicly denounced the rollout of the damning revelations as not allowing him due process.
The new report dedicates a subsection to that claim, arguing that the governor repeatedly declined cooperate with the investigators by not providing all the documents they requested, and that he chose to resign rather face further scrutiny of an impeachment trial.
“In the face of an impeachment trial, the former Governor chose to resign, not to contest the available evidence and confront witnesses in that legal forum,” the report reads.