NY assembly: "Overwhelming evidence" of Cuomo's corruption, sexual harassment

AP Photo/Richard Drew

Does this put a crimp in Andrew Cuomo’s comeback plans, or merely provide more fuel for his revenge quest? A long-awaited report from the New York Assembly’s impeachment inquiry concludes that “overwhelming evidence” exists to support allegations of sexual harassment, corruption, and a cover-up of nursing-home deaths. The latter was the one Cuomo scandal with a body count, and apparently also a dollar figure:

An eight-month impeachment investigation of former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo by the New York State Assembly found “overwhelming evidence that the former governor engaged in sexual harassment,” reinforcing the conclusions reached in a damning report by the state attorney general.

In a 46-page report released on Monday, the Assembly Judiciary Committee also found that Mr. Cuomo used state workers and other public resources to write, publish and promote his memoir about his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, a likely violation of state ethics laws.

The inquiry also concluded that Mr. Cuomo “was not fully transparent regarding the number of nursing home residents who died as a result of Covid-19,” and its findings had led one committee member to say that there “would be a very reasonable inference” that there was some correlation between Mr. Cuomo’s $5.1 million book deal and his administration’s manipulation of nursing home death data.

That’s a hoo boy moment of its own, even if the report uses the mealy-mouthed “not fully transparent” phraseology. Cuomo had resorted to arguing that the novelty of the pandemic meant that some decisions that had to be made in the moment might not look the wisest in the long run, but that there wasn’t any indication that those policies were wrong until later. The cover-up of the statistics belie that explanation already, but if investigators can link that decision to the book deal with evidence or testimony, then the cover-up takes on a much more sinister and grubby appearance.

Did they make that connection, though? Citing a “very reasonable inference” suggests that they didn’t. Otherwise, they would have cited the direct-link evidence or testimony, not an “inference.” However, the correlation between the cover-up, the book deal, and the fact that Cuomo had his official staff working on the book is certainly reason enough for that inference, politically if not legally. And legally, Cuomo could have plenty of reasons to worry just on the sexual harassment alone anyway.

Cuomo’s team had pre-emptively attacked the committee for not sharing its evidence with them. The inquiry responded to that by telling Cuomo to pound sand:

Cuomo has demanded that Assembly investigators hand over all their evidence against him, but Judiciary Committee members say that Cuomo isn’t entitled to that evidence.

“In the face of an impeachment trial, the former Governor chose to resign, not to contest the available evidence and confront witnesses in that legal forum,” the report released Monday said. “Having foregone that opportunity, he is not entitled to the production of any further evidence from this Committee.”

Cuomo often released statements pledging cooperation with the Assembly investigation, but investigators said he produced only limited documents over the course of almost six months.

“Nonetheless, at no time has the former Governor meaningfully complied with the Committee’s requests or cooperated with its investigation,” the report reads.

Cuomo’s demand was political theater and nothing more. Even if this investigation had been run by Attorney General Letitia James, Cuomo wouldn’t have been entitled to access the evidence until the discovery phase of a criminal prosecution. The legislature has no such discovery requirements, except in the case of an impeachment. Ironically, Assembly speaker Carl Heastie seemed to be doing everything he could to avoid an impeachment, or at least dragging things out as long as possible while hoping Cuomo mooted it with a resignation.

As it stands, the whole report is likely moot too. Cuomo might run for office again at some point, but it’s tough to see how he ever wins a nomination within the Democratic Party again. His bare-knuckled exercise of power over the last two decades gave his nominal allies plenty of reasons — personal and political — to make sure he remains sidelined for the rest of his life. The potential for prosecution as well as the lawsuits to come should ensure that outcome.