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Next step in Cuomo impeachment probe: subpoenas to witnesses

June 30, 2021 Marina Villeneuve, Associated Press
speaks during a news conference in New York on Monday, April 19, 2021. New York’s comptroller has asked the state attorney general’s office to launch a criminal investigation into whether the governor used state resources to write and promote his book on leadership in the COVID-19 pandemic
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Lawmakers on the New York Assembly’s Judiciary Committee said Wednesday they will issue subpoenas to compel documents and sworn statements from witnesses for a months-long probe whether there are grounds to impeach Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Speaking at a legislative committee meeting, Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Lavine said that the committee will issue subpoenas to help lawyers assisting with the legislative probe gather more records and interviews. Lavine said the law firm — Manhattan Davis Polk & Wardwell — will hold interviews under oath on the committee’s behalf.

The Democratic governor faces multiple wide-ranging probes over allegations ranging from groping a current female aide to trying to boost his public image by refusing to disclose how many nursing home residents died of COVID-19 for months.

He has rebuffed calls for his resignation and denied any wrongdoing, but apologized if he made anyone uncomfortable and for taking too long to release COVID-19 data.

During a meeting in late May, Lavine said lawyers had spoken with about 75 people and entities — or their attorneys — for the investigation. That was a small increase from April 21, when Lavine said investigators had spoken with attorneys for about 70 people and four government agencies.

The Judiciary Committee has released few details about its ongoing investigation, which was launched in mid-March. Lavine gave no insight Wednesday about when the probe will end or if public hearings will be held.

Lavine said in late May that the Davis Polk law firm has reviewed “tens of thousands of pages of documents” — ranging from email and text correspondence, to photographs, personnel records, training materials and policies.

Lavine said Wednesday that the firm has collected more than 100,000 pages of records.

Critics of the governor, including Democrats state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi and Assemblymember Ron Kim, have argued the investigation is being dragged out to buy time for Cuomo to get the probe behind him.

Lawmakers passed a bill this month to ensure that the Legislature can tap into more funds for an impeachment investigation and trial. The Assembly Judiciary committee’s own probe has an initial budget of $250,000, which committee chair Charles Lavine said will likely increase.

The Assembly’s probe is focused on whether there are grounds to impeach Cuomo over four main issues:

— Sexual harassment and groping allegations lodged against the Democrat by current and former aides.

— The administration’s efforts to withhold a full count of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.

— The governor’s use of aides to help write his book on pandemic leadership for which he earned $5 million.

— His administration’s handling of safety concerns about the Mario Cuomo Bridge.

Lavine has said investigators are also examining whether the governor helped family members get special access to coronavirus tests in spring of 2020.

State Attorney General Letitia James is separately investigating the sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo, Cuomo’s book deal and allegations that a former Cuomo aide who oversaw the state’s vaccine rollout pressured county leaders to support the governor.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors are investigating the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing home COVID-19 data and whether members of Cuomo’s inner circle got rushed access to COVID-19 testing in spring of 2020.

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