Aug 9, 2021
New York Lawmakers Press Conference on Andrew Cuomo Impeachment Transcript
New York state legislators held a press conference on August 9, 2021 to discuss the inquiry into Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s impeachment following the report of Cuomo’s sexual misconduct. Read the transcript of the briefing with updates here.
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Carl Heastie: (00:00)
Speaker 1: (00:11)
Speaker 2: (00:12)
Carl Heastie: (00:22)
All right. Good afternoon. So on March 1st, the Attorney General was authorized to undertake an independent investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Governor Andrew Cuomo. on March 11th, I authorized the State Assembly Judiciary Committee to undertake a broad impeachment investigation concerning the conduct of the governor. Now, with the Attorney General’s task completed, the assembly is working to expeditiously conclude our investigation, which covers a broad range of issues so that we can bring this sad chapter of our state’s history to a conclusion. As I stated last week, the governor’s clearly lost the confidence of the majority of members of the New York State Assembly. The Attorney General’s report lays out in painful detail, the many instances and ways in which he reportedly harassed and created a hostile work environment for the employees of the executive chamber and others he came in contact with. I’m heartbroken.
Carl Heastie: (01:20)
Let me be clear, no one should have to endure the type of behavior detailed in the Attorney General’s report. We had a historic moment in our state’s modern history. For the first time in more than 100 years, the Assembly’s undertaking an impeachment investigation of a sitting governor. Chairman Levine, the members of the Judiciary Committee, and my majority colleagues understand the gravity of the situation that we find ourselves in today.
Carl Heastie: (01:49)
Future generations will look to us and how we conducted ourselves in this moment. In order to ensure due process, which is embedded in our system, we’ve asked for all evidence unredacted and unfiltered used by the Attorney General’s investigators to reach their conclusions. The process to begin receiving that information did not begin until Saturday evening, we have not yet received all of it, we’ve received a lot, but not all of it. We’ve also asked the governor to submit any relevant evidence he may have by Friday, August 13th. Our goal is now to bring this matter to a conclusion with all due haste, no pun intended. The judiciary committee has made progress on the issues they have been investigating and to provide an update on those issues, our schedule and the progress of the overall investigation, I will now turn to the chair of our judiciary committee, Charles Levine.
Charles Lavine: (02:52)
Thank you, Speaker. We have just completed an executive session of the Judiciary Committee to discuss the committees, ongoing impeachment investigation of Governor Cuomo. As I stated in my opening remarks before we went into executive session, the committee is closely reviewing the findings of the Attorney General’s detailed report. At the same time, the assembly’s outside counsel, Davis Polk, is continuing to conduct its own thorough, independent and expeditious investigation.
Charles Lavine: (03:32)
This investigation by Davis Polk covers the allegations of sexual misconduct and related retaliation documented in the Attorney General’s report. It also covers other allegations, including allegations that the governor improperly used state resources to write and produce a book, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic and that’s quote unquote. Allegations concerning COVID-19 and nursing homes, allegations that he provided for preferential access to COVID-19 testing to certain friends and or family members.
Charles Lavine: (04:18)
As part of the committee’s analysis of the sexual harassment allegations, it will review the very detailed report submitted by the Attorney General and the related evidence. The related evidence involves three volumes of appendices. At the same time, the lawyers are reviewing over 100,000 pages of documents, the testimony of numerous witnesses, and this doesn’t count the 100,000 plus documents, just on the nursing home question alone, there are more than half a million pages of documentation.
Charles Lavine: (05:03)
So I want to address the timeline for this process. We have scheduled additional executive sessions of the committee for August the 16th, and again, for August 23. In these sessions, Davis Polk will update the members of the committee on its investigative findings. By then, we expect Davis Polk will have had an opportunity to further examine the original source material that’s being provided by the Attorney General’s office. These presentations will incorporate the Attorney General’s important and valuable work, but it will also reflect the results of Davis Polk’s independent review. Beginning next week on August 16, the members of the committee will be granted access in a secure location to the full evidence of the Attorney General’s investigation, as well as information that’s been gathered and prepared by Davis Polk. This evidence will include all the underlying transcripts, recordings of witnesses, depositions, the recording of governor Cuomo’s deposition, documents and other materials.
Charles Lavine: (06:33)
Given the sensitivity, the absolute sensitivity of this information, and in order to preserve confidentiality of the committee’s investigation, as well as to protect the interests and the safety of the alleged victims, particularly those who were not identified by name in the Attorney General’s report, these materials will be available only in a secure environment, somewhere close to if not in the Capitol. Next we expect to hold public hearings after August the 23rd to present testimony from independent experts on key subject matters related to the impeachment inquiry. We expect to invite an expert to testify on sexual assault and harassment. And we expect to invite another expert to address the impeachment process itself under the New York State Constitution. After the committee has completed its review of the evidence, it will make a recommendation to the full assembly on whether to proceed with impeachment against Governor Cuomo. We anticipate that this process will be concluded very soon. And when I say very soon, I’m speaking about several weeks.
Charles Lavine: (07:58)
Next, I want to describe the opportunities that we are extending to the governor to participate in the Assembly’s process. Let me start by providing a brief background on impeachment. As noted, impeachment and conviction of a governor entails a two-stage process: the impeachment itself by the assembly followed by a trial in the court of impeachment. And the court of impeachment is the senators minus one, so it’s 62 senators, and the seven judges of the Court of Appeals. During the initial impeachment phase, Governor Cuomo has and will have numerous opportunities to be heard. In particular, the committee has afforded Governor Cuomo the opportunities to submit any and all written materials to the assembly that he would like the committee to consider, and we are expecting to receive those by Friday. Any such written materials will supplement materials that the governor has already produced.
Charles Lavine: (09:02)
The committee will also carefully consider Governor Cuomo’s 85 page position paper that his counsel released on the 3rd of August, the recorded statement that he made that very same day and the subsequent press conference held by his counsel on August the sixth, and all testimony by the governor under oath. If the Assembly approves articles of impeachment, Governor Cuomo will be afforded additional access to information and additional opportunities to participate during the trial phase, and the trial phase is in the court of impeachment. The Committee has and will continue to conduct an investigation that is comprehensive, fair and reflect the seriousness of our constitutional obligation. Thank you for the opportunity to speak. And I welcome any questions that you may have.
Speaker 3: (10:03)
Charles Lavine: (10:03)
… that you may have. [inaudible 00:10:04] May I simply ask a question, and maybe it’s because everybody’s wearing a mask, if you can just tell us your name and your affiliation, that will help. Thanks Dan.
Charles Lavine: (10:22)
Dan. That’s a very interesting question. We may very well have the authority to do that, and I wouldn’t discount that for a moment. But the end result would be, because he’s already out of office, an impeachment itself is going to be moot. It’s not going to be meaningful, but there would be the opportunity in the court of impeachment to prohibit him from ever again occupying statewide office. Thank you, Dan. [inaudible 00:10:53] Again, and who are you?
Andrew Siff: (10:55)
Andrew Siff with WNBC.
Charles Lavine: (10:57)
Andrew Siff: (10:59)
You have members of the assembly as well as advocates for the victims who say to hold an up or down vote on the Attorney General report right now. What is your answer to their criticism of the process you just laid out is dragging this out.
Charles Lavine: (11:15)
I want to point something out, to begin with. The committee itself has zealously fought to protect the rights of every one of these women. There have been no leaks whatsoever from the assembly committee and we have, and we will continue to treat every one of the alleged victims with respect and with concern and with a sense of protection.
Charles Lavine: (11:49)
I spent a lifetime trying complex cases in our state and our federal courts. I would not want to rely solely on the report of the Attorney General, as good as it is, to make a case. And the question here isn’t simply, “Shall we rush to impeach?” The question is, “Can we present, should that occur, a compelling and comprehensive case at the court of impeachment?”
Charles Lavine: (12:21)
I understand and I appreciate and sympathize with the desire to do this and do this as fast as possible, but we still have to comport with Constitutional mandates and requirements. And, 100 from now, 200 years from now people will look back at this and people will say, “Did they do the right thing?”
Charles Lavine: (12:42)
Our intention and the intention of everyone, and this is a bipartisan statement on the committee, is to do what is right. Thank you.
Charles Lavine: (12:51)
[crosstalk 00:12:51] Wait, wait, wait. All right. Wait, wait. This is almost like being home, everybody’s yelling at me. Who’s going to start? Let’s start over here on this side.
John Campbell: (13:02)
Senator, John Campbell with USA TODAY Network. You just mentioned people 100 years from now, there’s only been one impeachment and that was in 1913, are you using that as a guide book and is the fact that it was so long ago complicating matters at all for the impeachment process?
Charles Lavine: (13:18)
No, it’s not complicating matters at all. But we use it to an extent to view past and prior precedent. As everyone knows, there is no primmer on how to do an impeachment. The Constitution necessarily provides great leeway, great deference to the members of the assembly and the people who constitute the court of impeachment.
Charles Lavine: (13:46)
We struggle to make sure that we provide adequate and proper and above what’s required Constitutional and due process protections, not only for the governor. Due process protections provide everyone, they provide help for the victims and they also provide protection for the governor and they provide protection for the people of the State of New York, and we will comport with due process. Oh, I’m sorry.
John Campbell: (14:13)
I was just going to say, is David Polk advising you on the impeachment process or only on the investigation?
Charles Lavine: (14:19)
On both. [inaudible 00:14:24] I’m sorry?
Speaker 4: (14:24)
I’m a reporter with [inaudible 00:14:27] Can you explain why there needs to be a public hearing on this matter [inaudible 00:14:32] why not have a [inaudible 00:14:32] and, will there be other people around you [inaudible 00:14:38].
Charles Lavine: (14:41)
We anticipate that experts in the field of what happens to those who are the victims of sexual assault and experts on the subject of impeachment in New York State will testify. And the reason for that is, everyone on this committee has gotten multiple inquiries, very often, no offense, inquiries from the press as to what is the process, what is involved. We want to make sure we do everything so that the people of the State of New York are aware of the process, and that’s why we will have this public hearing.
[crosstalk 00:15:28] with the Associate Press, I was just wondering what sort of coordination are you getting with the AG’s office. Are you guys anticipating [inaudible 00:15:56] anonymously to the AG [inaudible 00:15:56] already? And I was just wondering if you could talk about what it looks like grounds for impeachment are, based on the last five months of your campaign?
Charles Lavine: (15:56)
We’ll certainly do our to communicate with witnesses who are anonymous, but you know of course, they’re anonymous so it’s not so easy to figure out who they are. We will likely be, in fact I’m sure, we will be speaking with some of the witnesses who had cooperated in the Attorney General’s investigation. And we will be doing that very, very quickly. Which is not to suggest that our council haven’t already interviewed quite a few of the witnesses. [inaudible 00:16:28] Wait, wait, wait, we’re going to go to Morgan. We’re going to go Morgan, now. We’re going to go to the middle and then we’ll come back to the right.
Thank you, Morgan with [inaudible 00:16:35] One more question [inaudible 00:16:51] how long do you guys have to build on that [inaudible 00:16:53] three days, or that day?
Charles Lavine: (16:55)
So, Morgan, I’m sorry. The first question was why not just proceed with the Attorney General’s report?
Charles Lavine: (17:01)
Well, we have to make sure that we examine the evidence that underlies the Attorney General’s report. When I look at the Attorney General’s report, I’m impressed at the comprehensive and thorough nature of that report, but the conclusions as to whether there was an impeachable offense, that’s a conclusion that is within the realm and the authority only of the New York State Assembly. No one else. And, I asked you to consider this, if we are going to present a case, assuming there is a trial of the impeachment in the court of impeachment, I think we owe it to the people of the State of New York to make sure that we fully examine the underlying evidence in the Attorney General’s report. And that we do our best to make sure that it correlates or interfaces with our evidence. It’s basic trial strategy.
But what would be so wrong? Why not just proceed with justice [inaudible 00:18:22]
Charles Lavine: (18:22)
Morgan, our charge from the Speaker was to examine each of those separate events. I don’t want to start to discuss the art involved in drawing articles of impeachment yet. We’ve still got a couple of steps to take before we’re in that position. But I’m fully confident, thank you, that should the committee vote to pursue impeachment, the articles of impeachment will be airtight. [inaudible 00:19:00] Wait, wait, wait. We’ve got to go to this side. Yes, yes, yes. We’ll come back. We’re working.
Speaker 5: (19:06)
Mr. Speaker or Chair, have either of you heard from the Governor this past week [inaudible 00:19:15] bargaining, or what’s the approach to dealing with [inaudible 00:19:15]
Charles Lavine: (19:15)
No, I haven’t heard from the governor, directly.
Carl Heastie: (19:21)
I have not spoken to the governor I think since the end of February, other than discussions of the budget in the leaders meeting, and when I had COVID he wished me well. But outside of that, I’ve had no conversations with the governor.
Speaker 5: (19:34)
And Mr. Speaker [inaudible 00:19:41].
Carl Heastie: (19:40)
I think for us, we know we have a job to do, and that’s what we are concentrating on, fulfilling our Constitutional duties when it comes to these matters. [inaudible 00:19:52] Hold on, Chuck was running the show, so I’m going to let him continue to pitch-
Carl Heastie: (20:06)
Other than what I read in the newspaper. I’ve had no reach out from the governor. [Crosstalk 00:20:11].
Speaker, how many books do you have and your co-chairs? This is a procedural question.
Charles Lavine: (20:15)
But who are you?
Henry [inaudible 00:20:16].
Charles Lavine: (20:18)
Thank you, Henry.
I’m wondering if you and your committee will draft articles and vote on them specifically recommending each individual article? Or will you do a broad recommendation and have to go back and redo articles? How is this going to play out?
Charles Lavine: (20:30)
I think those of us who have ever been involved in either drafting indictments or charges or reading and analyzing them know that until we are a little bit farther along in the process, we can’t answer that question. We still need to review some more evidence, but we have made remarkable progress.
But will there be an up or down vote and then individual votes? I guess that’s what I’m getting at.
Charles Lavine: (20:59)
I think that that sounds like a good idea to me. Wait.
I just want to ask a followup. I was wondering [inaudible 00:21:14]? Will there be an impeachment vote or-
Charles Lavine: (21:17)
When you say October for an impeachment vote, on the floor of the assembly?
Yeah. What is the governor’s timeline [inaudible 00:21:29]?
Charles Lavine: (21:29)
We are concentrating on completing the committee process. And once the committee process is completed, we will all be in a better position to be able to answer that question. Good question.
Will there be articles of impeachment once [inaudible 00:21:42], will there be a way we can summon those afterwards? [inaudible 00:22:01]. Would that be something after or?
Charles Lavine: (22:01)
I’d ask everyone who was sort of an armchair lawyer who was waiting in on how to draft articles of impeachment to consider that there are notice requirements to the governor. Once articles of impeachment are adopted by the assembly, they will be served on the governor by the court of impeachment and the governor is entitled to at least 30 days to respond, 30 days minimum for the court of impeachment trial in the Senate. And I would just ask people to consider who are waiting in on this about amending articles to consider. We probably have to then continue to give 30 days notice after every one of those amendments and perhaps there may just be a way to draft the article or articles of impeachment in such a way that they are sufficiently comprehensive.
But wouldn’t he have to step aside? Doesn’t the governor have to step aside while we identify a solution?
Charles Lavine: (23:16)
[inaudible 00:23:18] 30 day window?
Charles Lavine: (23:19)
There would still be a 30 day window, but now then the trial itself is postponed for another month and another month and another month. I am not so sure that’s in the best interests of the people of the state of New York.
Senator Heastie, Speaker Heastie, have you heard from anyone in your democratic conference that they do not support impeachment or resignation of the governor at this point? And given that fact, then can you talk about why the decision came up on this vote?
Carl Heastie: (23:51)
So Jimmy, I would say, listen, you have a wide range of I’d say feelings that members have, but I guess again, I’ll say the overall sense that I get from the members of the assembly is, as I stated very clearly, that members have no confidence in the ability of the governor to remain in office. I think that’s the universal sentiment that we have. And you’re always going to have differences of opinion as to where and how and how quick, but as the chairman outlined, you want to make sure things are right, but also done in an expeditious manner.
Carl Heastie: (24:35)
And I believe that this is going to be dealt within weeks and not months. And I just want people to understand you want to make sure that this is a process that no one can say they were treated unfairly. And I do think that for those of us who are not in the press and those of us who are not members, the public is watching what we’re doing. And I think we have to assure the public that what we did was done in a constitutional and fair manner.
Chairman, who is going to be running this case?
Carl Heastie: (25:13)
I would assume the governor is.
Speaker Heastie, [inaudible 00:25:15] here and I was just wondering [inaudible 00:25:24]?
Carl Heastie: (25:24)
I don’t have an up-to-date figure, but I think at last mention that I was given at least on the assembly side, I believe it was in the millions of dollars.
Speaker Heastie, there are those who are concerned [inaudible 00:25:46].
Carl Heastie: (25:47)
Have you cut a deal?
Carl Heastie: (25:50)
I am not negotiating any deals. Like I said, I read that in the newspaper. I’m not part of any discussions or plan to be part of any discussions about cutting deals.
Carl Heastie: (26:13)
Of course I’m concerned about everybody. I’m concerned about the victims. I’m concerned about the people in the state of New York. This is not something that I take very lightly, but the Attorney General’s investigation was almost five months long. And what I’m saying is, and what the chair and the committee is saying is there still is a role that the assembly has to play, and I’m just asking people to understand that and let us do what is right. I think it has been made very, very clearly by this assembly majority that there’s no confidence in the governor remaining in office, but we still have to deal with the process that lets the people of the state of New York know that we did things in the right way.
Charles Lavine: (27:04)
[crosstalk 00:27:04]. But I’m-
Charles Lavine: (27:07)
Charles Lavine: (27:12)
Mark, I’m sorry. Can you speak up a little more?
Is there a higher level of burden of proof for the committee than what the attorney general had in her report where it basically was a he said, she said, but there wasn’t corroborating evidence such as you have this woman who came forward who said she was assaulted and it’s a big scandal with consequences. Is there a higher burden of proof?
Charles Lavine: (27:49)
Mark, I learned during the years I served as Chair of the Ethics Committee, which was in a period of intense turmoil, I don’t use the phrase he said, she said, and I will not, although you forced me to use it. I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe in that any more than I believe that if someone’s walking down the street, if you’re walking down the street and someone comes and hits you on the head, your word should be considered even if there’s no witnesses. Plus and in addition to that, or some of my colleagues like to say now, plus one, let me plus one you that I have read every word of that report and I would not agree with the characterization that there was not corroboration. Whether that corroboration is sufficient to justify the assembly voting or the committee voting to impeach, that remains to be seen. I hope that answers your question, Mark. [crosstalk 00:28:53]. Wait, wait, we’re going to this side now.
Speaker 6: (28:56)
Charles Lavine: (28:56)
I think the best answer to that question is this. The report itself is comprehensive, it is artfully drafted and written, but the committee is less concerned, in fact, hardly concerned at all with its findings than it is with conducting an independent evaluation of the factual basis. And I really don’t want to comment on the governor’s characterization of the attorney general or the lawyers who did that report. The attorney general is highly respected and the attorneys who prepared that report are also highly respected. [crosstalk 00:30:01]. Wait.
Charles Lavine: (30:03)
Charles Lavine: (30:09)
Of course. Of course.
Charles Lavine: (30:13)
Most of the legislators [inaudible 00:30:27] losing public trust. Chair is there any [inaudible 00:30:34] that don’t even include a felony, maybe not even a misdemeanor, no crime at all?
Charles Lavine: (30:37)
I think the answer to that question is, yes. And I think if we look to article 13, section five of the New York State Constitution, the word, and I’m sure it’s a word that all of us are familiar with, is a malversation, is sufficient reason for removal from office. Malversation, in essence it means, today we would say corruption, corruption of office.
The accusation that you’ve seen, just of sexual harassment, would that constitute corruption? [inaudible 00:31:13]
Charles Lavine: (31:16)
It could, yes. Corruption of office means more than simply being on the take for a few bucks here or a few bucks there.
Is there any worry that, looking at the timeline of this, that the longer this goes, the more that the governor will be able to stay in power [inaudible 00:31:47]?The second question is, talk to me a little bit about how much support the Assembly has for [inaudible 00:31:50] already, before even going into this presentation.
Charles Lavine: (31:55)
Well, time may enure to the benefit of the governor, it may not. As far as we are concerned, when we talk about time, we are talking about finishing this process within a matter of weeks.
Charles Lavine: (32:29)
I can’t speak to the assembly as a whole, but I could say this, and I will say this, on behalf of the Republican and the Democratic members of the judiciary committee. We have examined everything we can up to this date. Every person on this committee, which I’m privileged, thank you, to be able to lead, is as serious as can be. And I’m also conscious of something else, which is that so many have been the victims of sexual assault. And many of those people have had intense and anxious reactions as a result of this accusation against the governor. It is in the best interests of the people of the state of New York to move expeditiously, which is what we have been doing. We are now six days after the Attorney General’s report, and anyone who read that report and read it in detail, knows that that took hours to read that report. We’re asking for a few more hours in the relative scheme of things. Thank you.
John Campbell: (33:55)
Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman. Sorry, with the USA [inaudible 00:34:01] actually this is for the Speaker. In general, Speaker, you don’t bring bills to the floor unless they have 76 democratic votes. Is that the standard you’re applying to this or are you willing to rely on Republican votes as well?
Carl Heastie: (34:15)
Before I answer your question, I just want to add something to the previous answer to, asked by CNN. This idea of buying the governor more time, I think the more reaching thing that I want people to take away from this is the fact that I’ve clearly stated the Assembly majority has no confidence in the governor’s ability to continue in office. So this idea that the assembly going through its process is somehow going to allow the governor to figure something out on this. I would disagree with that assessment altogether. Now, John, ask your question again. I’m sorry.
John Campbell: (34:54)
Usually you need 76 Democratic votes before you bring something to the floor. Is that the standard you’re applying to this as well?
Carl Heastie: (35:03)
Not necessarily. I’m looking at the sentiment of the judiciary committee first, which has Democrats and Republicans. But I will say this, I’m very proud of the decision we made. Because for us, we are willing to hold Democrats and Republicans accountable, but I didn’t do a head count to say how many Democrats and how many Republicans. I’m really trying to work through the judiciary committee. And they will then make recommendations to the full Assembly body, it won’t be the Assembly Democratic caucus versus the Republican caucus. So it’s more about the process of which we set upon, which is to run through the judiciary committee.
Charles Lavine: (36:03)
I’m sorry, everybody’s got masks on. It’s not so easy to figure out who’s talking, but thanks for lowering your mask a little bit. Josh.
Do you view the role of the other investigations [inaudible 00:36:24] plitical favors, as part of the evidence [inaudible 00:36:24]. In other words, do you view your role in handling this impeachment inquiry as whether or not you can remove the governor, or is it about getting to the bottom of these issues that affect New York?
Charles Lavine: (36:35)
It is both.
How do you balance that?
Charles Lavine: (36:37)
We balance it the best we can in fairness and equity. We look to what’s reliable. What’s not reliable but… I got lost a little bit with the nuance of your question.
[inaudible 00:36:54] Sorry.
You were speaking before about wanting to have the rest of these… You’ve spoken the whole time about wanting to see through the investigations, but earlier in your comments [inaudible 00:37:09] you said you want to move through this quickly, and if you had enough you would go forward [inaudible 00:37:16]. Which is it?
Charles Lavine: (37:16)
It’s both. It’s both.
Charles Lavine: (37:19)
I don’t think it’s impossible to have two abstractly competing theories in one’s mind at the same time. That’s how investigations are done. Keeping up. No. No. Thank you.