The leader of New York’s Assembly privately cast doubt on the spiraling allegations against Gov. Andrew Cuomo — and said his accusers will have to be interviewed “under oath,” according to a report Tuesday.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx) — who authorized an impeachment investigation of Cuomo last week — also warned Democratic legislators not to rush to judgment, noting that “people get accused of things,” Yahoo! News said.
“These days any one of us in this place could be accused,” Heastie said.
Heastie’s remarks were recorded during a nearly four-hour video conference call with the entire Democratic Assembly conference that preceded his Thursday announcement that the Judiciary Committee would “examine allegations of misconduct” against Cuomo, Yahoo! News said.
Heastie argued against immediately drafting articles of impeachment against the three-term Democrat by saying some allegations were “based on a newspaper article or other people’s assertions.”
“We need to get witness testimony. We need to hear from people who have this information. You put them under oath,” Heastie said.
“They may have made false statements. I don’t know.”
Heastie said some interviews conducted by the Judiciary Committee “would not be made public” but added that “some people could be called in front of the committee as part of a hearing.
Heastie also said he had “no idea what the time frame is,” adding, “An outside firm is going to have to be hired that deals with this type of stuff.”
During Thursday’s marathon meeting, Heastie said the investigation would address the allegations of groping, sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior against Cuomo, as well as the nursing home death toll from COVID-19 and a recent report that faulty bolts were used to build the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, which replaced the Tappan Zee Bridge.
Assemblyman John McDonald III (D-Albany) expressed support for the plan and offered a harsh assessment of Cuomo’s predicament, Yahoo! News said.
“He’s got three major buckets of s–t going on here,” McDonald said.
Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor), who caucuses with the Democratic majority, also called Judiciary Chairman Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) “well-qualified to do this” — before apparently joking about the potential consequences.
“I will not be starting his car in the morning, but I think he’s the right guy for the job,” Thiele said.
Heastie spokesman Mike Whyland didn’t deny the accuracy of the report, saying, “The Speaker stands by what he said 100 percent.”
But a source close to Heastie said the speaker held a terse, two-minute video conference call after the report was posted online and told the Democratic conference it would no longer meet that way again due to the leak.
Heastie said he would instead only hold virtual meetings with smaller groups until lawmakers can again gather in person after the coronavirus pandemic is under control, the source said.