The state legislator heading the investigation that could lead to Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s impeachment sent the governor a strongly worded letter Wednesday demanding that Cuomo and his associates behave appropriately during the probe.
Democratic Assemblyman Charles Lavine penned the letter after Cuomo’s communications director and senior adviser, Rich Azzopardi, suggested there was a political agenda behind New York Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation of alleged sexual harassment and misconduct by the governor.
James, also a Democrat, is conducting an investigation parallel to the one by Lavine and his colleagues.
Azzopardi made those suggestions when he responded to an article shared in a July 11 Twitter post by New York Post reporter David J. Meyer.
Quoting a Post report, Meyer had written, “John Samuelsen told [reporter Carl Campanile] he’s ‘over’ Andrew Cuomo: ‘How could the labor movement support someone for governor who engaged in workforce criminality, sexual harassment?'”
Samuelsen is the Transport Workers Union president who backed Cuomo against Democratic competitor Cynthia Nixon ahead of Cuomo’s 2018 re-election.
The Post report discussed how Cuomo was losing his support within the TWU — the state’s largest transport union — as he faces investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct made against him as well as his culpability in and response to COVID-19 nursing home deaths.
“[Samuelsen] is an extortionist who is trying to undo pension reform. We also understand he is a political supporter of Tish James and she says she may run against the governor, and he wants more benefits in his contract. Everyone gets that,” Azzopardi said about an hour after Meyer had shared the article.
“Sameulson is an extortionist who is trying to undo pension reform. We also understand he is a political supporter of Tish James and she says she may run against the governor, and he wants more benefits in his contract. Everyone gets that” https://t.co/ZpHWl17rhY
— Rich Azzopardi (@RichAzzopardi) July 11, 2021
Lavine, the chairman of the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee, on Wednesday responded to Azzopardi’s comments by warning Cuomo in the letter that “it is both obvious and imperative that neither you nor anyone associated with you engage in intimidation, retaliation, or any attempt at intimidation or retalitation against any complainant or potential witness.”
The assemblyman shared a copy of his letter on Twitter.
“It is obvious that attempts to demean the Attorney General serve as well to undermine the investigation and send profoundly negative signals to witnesses,” Lavine wrote, adding, “It is critically important to realize that any such comment may merit severe repercussions.”
Please see my letter warning the governor over demeaning comments directed at the attorney general. pic.twitter.com/qbktSDA7eO
— Assemblymember Charles Lavine (@CharlesLavineNY) July 21, 2021
Lavine reminded Cuomo that on March 15, he had sent the governor a “non retaliation/intimidation notice” warning him that any intimidation or retaliatory efforts he undertakes might be seen “as an attempt to suppress other complainants and witnesses from coming forward.”
Azzopardi responded by sharing a letter from Cuomo’s acting counsel, Beth Garvey.
“There is a clear difference between actionable retaliation and protected speech and it is clear that the Chairman doesn’t understand the difference,” Garvey said, according to a Wednesday afternoon Twitter post by Azzopardi.
— Rich Azzopardi (@RichAzzopardi) July 21, 2021
One of the first steps on the road to Cuomo’s potential impeachment is the investigation by the Assembly Judiciary Committee headed by Lavine.
After finding “the reports of accusations concerning the governor” to be “serious,” Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced March 11 that he had vested the committee with authority to “interview witnesses, subpoena documents and evaluate evidence, as is allowed by the New York State Constitution.”
Lavine and his colleagues will be looking into the “allegations of misconduct against Governor Cuomo.”
The results from James’ investigation, though independent of the Assembly’s, are likely to impact the impeachment process greatly. The results could determine which way the proceedings would go or mount pressure on Cuomo to resign.
He is also accused of being behind a scandal where the numbers of people who had died of COVID-19 in the state’s nursing homes were allegedly covered up.
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