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Assembly releases findings of its impeachment investigation into Cuomo

Mike Groll/Mike Groll/Office of Governor An

An investigative report into several claims of misconduct made against former Gov. Andrew Cuomo was released Monday by the State Assembly, and concluded that the former governor engaged in sexual harassment, used state resources to write a book, and more.

The report is the result of an eight-month long investigation conducted by a private law firm retained by the Assembly, which was originally considering impeachment charges before the former governor resigned in early August.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, said that, although their probe is over, they’ll cooperate with any investigations that grow from the report, including those already underway.

“This has been a profoundly sad chapter in New York’s history,” Heastie said. “As we have throughout this process, we will continue to cooperate with all relevant investigative bodies to provide them with the evidence we have uncovered.”

The report was prepared by attorneys at the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, which reviewed more than 600,000 documents and collected testimony and other evidence from more than 200 individuals.

The investigation looked at nearly every claim of misconduct made against Cuomo this year, including allegations of sexual harassment, his administration’s handling of COVID-19 data related to nursing homes, claims that he used state resources to write a book, and more.

Cuomo resigned in August after a separate report from the Attorney General’s Office found several claims of sexual harassment made against the former governor to be credible. That report focused solely on the allegations of harassment.

The Assembly’s report appeared to affirm the findings from the Attorney General’s investigation, saying that evidence collected as part of the probe — like emails, text messages, and other communications — lined up with the allegations.

“We conclude that there is overwhelming evidence that the former Governor engaged in sexual harassment,” the report said.

Cuomo has denied the allegations, saying he never touched anyone inappropriately.

Investigators also found evidence supporting claims that Cuomo used state resources — including work by state employees while they were on the clock — to write his memoir, “American Crisis,” last year.

“One senior state official explained that Book-related assignments were given by superiors and expected to be completed, and the work was not voluntary,” the report said.

According to the report, top aides in the Cuomo administration acted as go-betweens with the book’s publisher, helping to arrange a media blitz for the memoir, track sales numbers, and more.

A lot of that happened during the workday, the report said, and junior staffers were allegedly assigned work to do on the book by their supervisors, despite an agreement with JCOPE, the state’s ethics agency, that state resources not be used in any way for the book.

One administration official received more than 1,000 emails regarding the book in the second half of last year, according to the report.

The report also looked into whether the Cuomo administration mishandled data related to nursing home residents who died from COVID-19. About 15,000 nursing home and long-term care facility residents have died from the virus.

The Cuomo administration had released a report a few months into the pandemic last year that blamed the spread of COVID-19 at those facilities on staff who unknowingly had the virus, but didn’t show symptoms while they were at work.

The Assembly’s investigators didn’t dispute that finding, but said the Cuomo administration’s report was prepared in a way that focused on preserving the former governor’s public image. He’d been criticized at the time for an order that barred nursing homes from denying entry to COVID-positive residents.

“it was substantially revised by the Executive Chamber and largely intended to combat criticisms
regarding former Governor Cuomo’s directive that nursing homes should readmit
residents that had been diagnosed with COVID-19,” the Assembly’s report said.

Rich Azzopardi, a spokesperson for the former governor, denied the findings of the Assembly report and said in a statement that it wasn’t credible because it included evidence from the Attorney General’s report, which Cuomo’s surrogates have framed as politically motivated.

“Any report that uses the Attorney General’s politically biased investigation as a basis is going to be equally flawed,” Azzopardi said.

In the lengthy statement, Azzopardi said the report didn’t include any substantial proof that Cuomo sexually harassed the women, and that any work done by state employees on his book was done so voluntarily.

The report was originally intended to be used as a tool to determine if the state Legislature should move forward with impeachment against Cuomo. But after he resigned, the chamber decided against impeachment, saying it wouldn’t be legal after Cuomo left office.

There have been calls to move forward with impeachment, despite Cuomo’s exit, but the Assembly report argued that it likely wouldn’t be possible with him out of office.

Dan Clark is the host and producer of New York NOW, a weekly television show focusing on state government produced by WMHT in Albany. Clark has been reporting on New York state government and politics for the last six years, during which time he's worked out of the state Capitol in Albany. Clark reported for the national political fact-checking publication PolitiFact, the Buffalo News, the statewide political television show Capital Tonight, and most recently the New York Law Journal. At the New York Law Journal, Clark has focused on state legal challenges to President Donald Trump, as well as litigation concerning laws enacted by the New York State Legislature. Clark covered the Legislature in each role he's held and is a familiar face to state lawmakers and staff. Clark is a native of Afton, NY in Chenango County. He's lived in Albany with his husband since 2011.