With the FBI hassling his office staff over whether they knowingly submitted false nursing home-death numbers to the DoJ, and AG Letitia James, his top political rival, overseeing an investigation into myriad allegations of sexual harassment against the governor (including at least one accusation that he groped a young woman in her 20s during a suspicious meeting at the executive residence), the world could be forgiven for assuming the Empire State governor and political scion’s days are numbered.
But little by little, Cuomo, who has a reputation of being a bully who threatens and coerces political allies and opponents alike, has managed to stymie efforts to bring him down. Earlier this week, Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Lavine, a Long Island Democrat, told lawmakers in a preliminary hearing that an impeachment investigation e will take “months, rather than weeks.”
“At this early stage, it’s not possible to say precisely how long this investigation will take,” Lavine said.
That investigation has already been marred by a scandal of its own: Several lawmakers have raised concerns that the law firm, Davis Polk & Wardwell, has a potential conflict of interest in the investigation given its ties to the Cuomo administration. Among them, Davis Polk’s head of litigation is married to the chief judge Cuomo appointed to the New York Court of Appeals.
Lavine insisted that the governor deserves due process just like anybody else. “Due process is not just a preset. It’s not just at the heart of what makes New Yorkers tick. It’s at the heart of the American democracy as well,” he said.
On a different note, President Biden has said New Yorkers should wait for the outcome of AG James’s investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against Cuomo, which have somehow eclipsed the fact that Cuomo deliberately underreported the number of nursing home residents who died due to outbreaks in the thousands of nursing homes strewn across the Empire State (many of which are managed by the state).
In yet further news, new allegations accusing Cuomo of playing hardball with his accusers emerged last night when Debra Katz, the high-profile attorney representing Cuomo accuser Charlotte Bennett, told the press that Cuomo’s decision to have government lawyers debrief staffers and accompany them to meetings has had “a chilling effect” on the investigations into the governor’s conduct.
In a letter to AG Letitia James, Katz urged her to direct Cuomo to halt any meddling into the probe, which is being led by former MUS Attorney Joon Kim and employment lawyer Anne Clark so the inquiry will be “fair and untainted.”
Katz’s letter is apparently a response to Cuomo’s decision to bring in an outside group of lawyers to help protect the governor from his own staff. The group, which includes a former top federal prosecutor from New Jersey, will advise members of Cuomo’s executive chamber, including secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa (whose taped claims about Cuomo withholding nursing-home death numbers for fear they would be used as a “political football” by then-President Trump.
Katz suggested the true goal here is to discourage Cuomo staffers from sharing any information that could damage the governor. She previously insisted that the hiring of Davis, Polk and Wardwell represented an “unacceptable” conflict of interest, but those complaints did nothing to change state lawmakers’ decision.
But how close is Cuomo to finally resigning? Polls suggest the governor has reason to hang on: Multiple polls, including a Quinnipiac University poll released last week, show Cuomo has retained support among a majority of New Yorkers (though a solid minority believe he should resign). Quinnipiac found that 55% of voters believe Cuomo shouldn’t step down, compared with 40% who believe he should. That support is even stronger among Democratic voters, with 67% saying they believe he should stay in office.
With his political support insulating him from efforts by Democrats in his own state, the governor’s biggest problem is the federal investigation. Though if prosecutors demand a scalp, he can always throw one of his staffers – perhaps DeRosa – under the bus, like Chris Christie did during “Bridgegate”.