Wednesday, May 12, 2021

New York Assembly set to hire outside counsel for Cuomo impeachment probe

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Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie listens during the State of the State speech in the New York State Assembly chamber.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie listens during the State of the State speech in the New York State Assembly chamber. | AP Photo/Hans Pennink, Pool

ALBANY, N.Y. — The New York State Assembly is in the process of hiring an outside law firm to help with its impeachment investigation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Speaker Carl Heastie said on Monday.

Heastie said an announcement would come “some time this week.”

The speaker did not have any details on how the investigation would proceed or how long it might take. “It should be done expeditiously,” he said. “But I think to say you have to come back with a decision in a week or two weeks or a month would be unfair to the process of an investigation.”

Cuomo would not need to sign off on any contracts, Heastie said. He didn’t yet have a projection for how much it might cost: “It’s not just lawyers, it’s investigators, it’s stenographers, it’s all those things they would need. I’m sure they’ll tell us what the bill is,” he said.

The Assembly decided last Thursday to launch the investigation, which could be used as the basis of New York’s first impeachment trial in over a century. Cuomo has repeatedly said he has no plans to resign over the mounting allegations of sexual harassment or his handling of nursing homes during the early stages of the pandemic.

“There are some members who want an immediate consideration of impeachment,” Heastie said. “But I’d say the overwhelming majority, almost everybody, believes in due process, and that’s why we were able to move forward and have the [Assembly] Judiciary Committee launch an impeachment investigation.”

The speaker says he recently had a “textversation” with Cuomo about an expansion in vaccine eligibility. But he has not spoken with the governor about the step his chamber has taken toward impeachment.

Heastie was optimistic that the looming budget negotiations could resume something close to the “normal dynamics.” The state budget is due at the end of the month.

“People still elected us to do our jobs, and the biggest thing is passing a budget and it still has to be done no matter what is occurring here in the Capitol,” he said.

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