The law firm Davis Polk and Wardwell has now been granted the authority to issue subpoenas and take the testimony of witnesses under oath as impeachment investigators continue to dig into the numerous scandals facing Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Lavine, who is leading the impeachment investigation, made this announcement on Wednesday in a brief update that lasted in total less than five minutes. Most deliberations happened behind closed doors in an executive session.
“To begin with, the committee will be issuing subpoenas,” Assemblyman Lavine said when the Assembly Judiciary Committee reconvened after their executive session.
Subpoenas are typically used to ease reluctance of witnesses, especially those who are state employees, and for those who fear retaliation.
Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, said he assumes many of those who will be subpoenaed have already been in talks with investigators.
“There are people who are waiting for subpoenas who they've been dealing with all along, who now are saying, ‘we'll fully cooperate, but we need that piece of paper to protect us, with our employer with the outside world, whatever.’ So it's a necessary procedural process,” Assemblyman Abinanti explained.
The impeachment investigation into Cuomo was announced almost four months ago, on March 11. The scope of the investigation is incredibly broad and looks into almost all the scandals facing Cuomo. This includes the possible coverup of COVID-19 related nursing home deaths, the sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo, if the governor’s administration stifled concerns over the safety of the Mario Cuomo Bridge and if Cuomo used state resources to help write his pandemic book.
Meanwhile, there are still numerous other investigations being conducted looking into Cuomo and his administration, including one being led by the Attorney General’s Office which is investigating the sexual harassment allegations against the governor.
“This is the next step in the process,” Abinanti said about the Assembly issuing subpoenas. “It's the normal step. We all expected this was going to happen and so now they're doing it. It also gives them the ability to deal with the Attorney General's Office because now they are authorized to subpoena the same information the Attorney General's Office is subpoenaing. And so now you’re putting them on the same level.”
However, the attorney general’s lawyers have been using subpoenas for over a month and that investigation was announced around the same time as the Assembly’s, on February 28.
State Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt criticized the slow moving investigation.
“I don't know what the Assembly Judiciary Committee has been doing,” Ortt said. “I guess it has just been wasting people's time. If you're talking to them without being under oath, that means it's not admissible, that means it can't be used. And so what have they been doing up to this point? This just looks like a slow roll. And I think that's why people do not have any real faith that this investigation is going to lead anywhere.”
Investigators have also collected over 100,000 pages of relevant documents tied to the impeachment investigation, including emails, texts and personnel records.