New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to news media with a backdrop of the Empire State Building and Manhattan Skyline in New York City on June 15. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 9 (UPI) -- A state legislative committee meeting to consider impeachment charges against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will issue its recommendation within weeks, its chairman said Monday.
The New York State Assembly's Judiciary Committee convened at the state capitol in Albany Monday to consider "in detail" last week's report from New York Attorney General Letitia James that found Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, including former and current state employees.
The report and its underlying evidence, as well as information gathered by the Assembly's own probe into Cuomo's actions, were discussed in a closed-door session that began Monday morning.
Following the meeting, Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Lavine, flanked by the panel's members, told reporters the group will make its decision on a possible impeachment recommendation "within a very short period of time."
"We anticipate that this process will be concluded very soon," he said. "When I say 'very soon,' I'm speaking about several weeks."
In addition to the sexual harassment allegations, Lavine said the committee will also look into other types of alleged misconduct, including accusations relating to nursing home deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic and handing out preferential access to testing, including to the governor's own family.
The committee has given Cuomo's attorneys until 5 p.m. Friday to respond. If Cuomo refuses to resign, it would then have the option to recommend impeachment proceedings to the full Assembly.
Cuomo has denied the accusations amid calls for him to resign from prominent Democrats, including President Joe Biden.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said last week "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."
The committee began its proceedings Monday only hours after Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo's top aide and one of his staunchest defenders, abruptly resigned.
DeRosa, the secretary to the governor, said in a Sunday night statement reported by The New York Times and The Washington Post that it was "the greatest honor of my life to serve the people of New York for the past 10 years."
James' report connected DeRosa to findings that "the governor and his senior staff took actions to retaliate against at least one former employee for coming forward with her story."
The report states that DeRosa in December contacted a former counsel to the governor asking to see the "full file" on former aide Lindsey Boylan, who had tweeted that Cuomo was "one of the biggest abusers of all time."
Days later, Boylan tweeted accusations that the governor had sexually harassed her and within hours the report containing complaints against her was sent to reporters along with a statement from the press secretary that said "[t]here is simply no truth to these claims," the report states.
It continues that DeRosa, who was looking for information about a woman staffer known by the name Kaitlin who in December tweeted her support for Boylan, had instructed a former staff member to call her and "surreptitiously record" the conversation.
"The former staff member testified that she felt pressured by the incessant calls and texts from Ms. DeRosa reiterating the request that she call Kaitlin," the report states. "The former staff member explained that she was deeply regretful after she made the call, and that Ms. DeRosa instructed her to tell Kaitlin during the call that reporters had called asking about Kaitlin's tweets in support of Ms. Boylan."
Following the report's publication, attorney Rita Glavin on Cuomo's behalf called its findings in an 85-page response "unfair and inaccurate."
Outside counsels for the executive chamber days later also released a 10-page letter over "deep concerns about the fairness of your investigation and the lack of neutrality and impartiality with which it was conducted."
Fabien Levy, press secretary and senior adviser to James, called the response an attack on the credibility of the women who accused Cuomo of sexual harassment in the report.
"There are 11 women whose accounts have been corroborated by a mountain of evidence," Levy said in a statement. "Any suggestion that attempts to undermine the credibility of these women or this investigation is unfortunate."
In other developments Monday, Roberta Kaplan, chairwoman of women's advocacy group Time's Up, resigned from her position after the attorney general's report alleged that she, like DeRosa, had conferred with Cuomo administration figures seeking to discredit one of the governor's accusers.
"Robbie Kaplan, board co-chair, has stepped down from the board," Time's Up President and CEO Tina Tchen said in a statement. "We and she agree that is the right and appropriate thing to do."
Meanwhile, one of Cuomo's accusers, Brittany Commisso, expanded on her accusations against the governor in interviews with CBS News and the Albany Times Union.
She is quoted in James' report as accusing Cuomo of engaging "in close and intimate hugs" during which he allegedly made unwanted sexual contact.
"What he did to me was a crime," Commisso said Monday. "He broke the law."