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New York Assembly hires top law firm for Cuomo investigation

UPDATED: Wed., March 17, 2021

By Marina Villeneuve and Tom Hays Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. – New York’s Assembly has hired a top Manhattan law firm to assist in its impeachment investigation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, legislative leaders announced Wednesday in a pick that was quickly criticized by at least two women accusing the governor of sexually harassing them.

The Manhattan firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, which has more than 900 attorneys and offices around the world, will lead the probe, said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Lavine.

The attorneys tapped to handle the investigation include Greg Andres, a former federal prosecutor who was on the team, led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, that investigated foreign meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“Since Thursday, Chairman Lavine led a vigorous search for a top-flight firm to assist with the investigation. I have the utmost faith that Assemblymember Lavine and our Judiciary Committee will conduct a full and fair investigation,” Heastie said, adding that he expected the investigation by the lower chamber of New York’s legislature to be “thorough and expeditious.”

The firm is expected to investigate claims that Cuomo sexually harassed and inappropriately touched multiple women and complaints that his administration purposely withheld data on COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.

The appointment was immediately panned by one of the women who has accused Cuomo of sexual harassment, Lindsey Boylan, who said she wouldn’t cooperate with the inquiry.

“What would be the point of survivors talking to investigators of your sham investigation @CarlHeastie?” Boylan tweeted. “I am in conversation with other women who have no interest in your corrupt, cynical ‘investigation.’ Hard pass.”

Leaders in the Democrat-controlled Assembly announced Thursday that they would investigate a variety of allegations against Cuomo.

Attorney General Letitia James is also investigating claims that the governor sexually harassed or inappropriately touched female aides.

Cuomo has denied touching any women inappropriately and has rebuffed calls for his resignation.

President Joe Biden said in an interview with ABC News on Tuesday that Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, should resign if the state attorney general’s investigation confirms the claims against him.

Not all of Cuomo’s supporters have deserted him. On Wednesday, Cuomo received his COVID-19 vaccination at a church in Harlem, where several Black leaders in New York City appeared at his side.

They included retired U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel and Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP’s New York conference.

The lawyers assisting the Assembly’s probe include Andres; Martine Beamon, another former federal prosecutor who is a partner in Davis Polk’s litigation department; and Angela Burgess, who helps run the firm’s white collar defense and investigations group.

Andres was the lead prosecutor at a 2018 trial that ended with the conviction of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Trump pardoned Manafort shortly before leaving office in January.

Before his stint with Mueller, Andres was a top Justice Department official overseeing the fraud unit and a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, where he specialized in organized crime cases.

He is married to Ronnie Abrams, a U.S. district judge in Manhattan nominated to the bench in 2011 by former President Barack Obama.

An attorney for another of Cuomo’s accusers, Charlotte Bennett, also objected to the selection of Davis Polk because of the firm’s past affiliation with a Cuomo political appointee, Dennis Glazer.

Glazer was at the law firm for 30 years before his retirement. Cuomo appointed him to the board of a state university and a board that helped pick the sites of casinos. He is also the husband of the state’s chief judge, Janet DiFiore.

“This is an unacceptable conflict of interest,” said Bennett’s lawyer, Debra Katz. “While Ms. Bennett is committed to cooperating with all appropriate governmental inquiries, including the impeachment investigation, the involvement of Davis Polk gives her pause.”

Boylan tweeted that she believes the Assembly’s decision to task its Judiciary Committee with investigating the governor “is not designed to be transparent or to move fast, and there’s nothing @NYGovCuomo wants more than time.”

“Many of us have not put our whole lives on the line for this crap. I certainly have not and will not,” she tweeted.

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