Two weeks noticed: Politicians wary of Cuomo’s resignation timetable

Two weeks noticed: Politicians wary of Cuomo’s resignation timetable

The clock is ticking down on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s time in office, but it’s moving too slowly for some critics who fear how he may use his remaining time in power.

Cuomo announced his resignation on Tuesday in the wake of a blistering report by the state attorney general’s finding he’d sexually harassed 11 women, but said he wouldn’t step down until Aug. 24th.

Cuomo said the two weeks were necessary to ensure a smooth transition for his successor, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. Hochul told reporters on Wednesday the delay “is not what she asked for” and that she’s ready to be sworn in now, but Cuomo said he thought the extra time was necessary.

Cuomo’s predecessor as governor, David Paterson, told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer on Thursday that he considered Cuomo’s position “suspicious.”

“It was just a little puzzling that they wanted to have that amount of time,” said Paterson, who’d been lieutenant governor in 2008 when then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced he was resigning because of a prostitution scandal. Paterson told Lehrer that Spitzer was prepared to step down immediately, but stayed on for five days at the stunned Paterson’s request so he could have a proper swearing-in ceremony.

He said he believes Hochul is already prepared to take the top job, given that the harassment allegations have been dogging Cuomo for months.

“She’s ready,” he said, noting that Cuomo might not be. “I just think the governor has just not resolved in his mind what’s actually going on yet and his self-awareness just does not seem to be particularly helpful to him at this particular time,” Paterson said.

Former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whose office investigated the Cuomo administration, said on the Cafe Insider podcast this past week that Cuomo is capable of “mischief” and “I hope there’s nothing nefarious” about the two-week lag.

Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to the governor, said Cuomo is using the time to do right by Hochul and the state. “It’s to ensure an orderly transition at this critical time where the key decisions still remain on Covid, the Delta variant and other significant challenges facing the state,” he said.

Susan Lerner, executive director of the watchdog group Common Cause New York, said any key decisions should be made by Hochul, not Cuomo.

The pandemic is “exactly why we need a governor with the long term authority to put policies in place, and not inheriting a set of decisions from a disgraced governor who has to resign,” she told NBC News.

“There are still open investigations into the governor,” Lerner noted, referring to the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s investigation into the administration’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic and state Attorney General Letitia James’ probe into whether Cuomo misused state resources to publish his book on leadership during the coronavirus crisis. Cuomo has not been charged with any crimes and has vehemently denied any wrongdoing in those cases as well as in the sexual harassment probe.

The state Assembly Judiciary Committee has been investigating all of the allegations as part of its impeachment probe, and Lerner said she’s concerned Cuomo could use the time to hamper the investigation.

It’s unclear whether the Assembly will continue with the impeachment proceedings given Cuomo’s resignation, but Lerner said it should. “A resignation in and of itself is not accountability,” she said.

The judiciary committee had given Cuomo until Friday to provide additional evidence and is expected to announce their next steps after it meets on Monday.

Cuomo has made no public appearances since returning to Albany after delivering his resignation speech in New York City, but has posted written coronavirus updates on the state’s website.

An official in Cuomo’s office said the governor has been focused on fighting the virus and has been “taking steps” to make sure Hochul’s team is up to speed on covid issues and “upcoming decision points.” Cuomo’s top aide Melissa DeRosa also resigned this week but plans to stay on until Cuomo formally departs. DeRosa has met with Hochul’s chief of staff, while Cuomo has directed state agencies to prepare transition memos and that staff make themselves available to Hochul and her team for full briefings, the official said.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a frequent Cuomo target and critic, told reporters there’s no need for the governor to stick around.

“I think people should keep a very close eye on him, after everything that he’s done. I don’t know why it needs to be 12 days honestly. I think we’re all ready to move on. The quicker we can move on, the better, at this point,” he said.

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