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Impeachment vote may be held within weeks; Heastie won't make deal

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks during a news

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks during a news conference at Yankee Stadium on July 26. Credit: AP / Richard Drew

ALBANY — The Assembly committee investigating Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday presented a schedule that could lead to an impeachment vote "within weeks," while Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he won't make a deal with the governor to stop the process.

Heastie (D-Bronx) denied media reports that Cuomo is trying to negotiate a deal to avoid impeachment as the Assembly committee investigates allegations of sexual harassment and other issues.

"I’m not negotiating any deals," Heastie said after a closed-door meeting of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, noting Assembly "members have no confidence in the governor to remain in office."

But Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) said the process won’t be rushed, despite a majority of senators and Assembly members, including most Democrats, calling on Cuomo to resign after a report released last week by state Attorney General Letitia James accused the governor of sexual harassing 11 women.

Lavine called the James report a thorough investigation, but said the Assembly must weigh its evidence and arrive at its own conclusion.

"We are thinking the end of the process is a matter of weeks," Lavine said.

Lavine said no violation of criminal law need be committed for the Assembly to impeach. He said the constitution requires only evidence of "corruption of office," which Lavine said can include a wide range of activities, including sexual harassment.

The Assembly process will include a public hearing Aug. 23. The Democratic and Republican committee members will question an expert on sexual harassment and an expert on what would constitute an article of impeachment. If the full Assembly votes for one or more impeachment articles, the matter would go to the Democratic-controlled Senate and the judges of the state Court of Appeals for a trial.

Meanwhile Monday, Brittany Commisso, the aide who filed a criminal complaint against Cuomo, said in an interview with CBS News that his unwanted groping and kissing wasn’t consensual and his denials are "disgusting." The interview aired about 10 hours after Melissa DeRosa, the top adviser to Cuomo, resigned.

Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing. He has said some of the alleged events outlined in the James report never happened or that some of the women misconstrued or misinterpreted some of his remarks, which he said were meant to convey warmth and camaraderie in a high-pressure atmosphere.

Later Monday, Cuomo’s attorney, Rita Glavin, continued to press her defense that the attorney general’s report has factual errors, that executive chamber records don’t match dates of incidents noted in the report. She also disputed the testimony of Commisso, who told the attorney general’s investigators that Cuomo cupped her breast around Nov. 16 at the governor’s mansion.

"That did not happen," Glavin told MSNBC. She said records show Commisso wasn’t at the mansion on or around that date.

Cuomo issued a 20-minute video on Aug. 3, the day the attorney general’s report was released, to respond to the report. He had spoken publicly the day before in a New York City news conference, and hasn't appeared in public since.

"You will be hearing directly from the governor soon," Glavin said.

Lavine said Cuomo will have several opportunities to comment and present evidence. A lengthy report by Cuomo's lawyers contesting some witnesses' testimony and interpretation of physical comment and comments are being reviewed by the Assembly committee.

"We want to make sure that should the committee vote to impeach, the articles of impeachment will be airtight," Lavine told reporters.

"I think this is going to be within weeks and not months," Heastie said.

However, should Cuomo resign, the impeachment effort could end, Lavine said. The Assembly also could choose to impeach Cuomo even if he resigns to prevent him from running for statewide office again.

To the rising tide of those urging the Assembly to take an impeachment vote now, Lavine had a warning: "If he wins, and he remains in office, unfettered; that is also a danger."

In addition to the sexual harassment allegations, the Judiciary Committee is probing Cuomo's accounting of deaths of nursing home residents from the virus, whether he misused his staff to help edit his political memoir last year, and whether he provided preferential treatment for COVID-19 testing to family members. The U.S. Justice Department is also investigating the accuracy of the nursing home mortality reports that the Cuomo administration provided to the State Legislature and the Justice Department last year.

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