ALBANY, N.Y. (NYT) Gov. Eliot Spitzer on Tuesday holed up in his Manhattan apartment and prepared to resign today over a prostitution scandal that has rocked the state, according to a high-ranking aide.
In a strategy used to give his lawyers time to negotiate with federal officials, the aide said, Spitzer, a Democrat, needed to hold onto the governorship as leverage to work out a deal involving criminal charges.
Two well-placed sources in Albany said Spitzer likely will step down today.
On Monday, when the scandal broke, prosecutors said in court papers that Spitzer had been caught on a wiretap spending $4,300 with the Emperors Club VIP call-girl service.
Investigators said Tuesday he was clearly a repeat customer who spent tens of thousands of dollars perhaps as much as $80,000 with the high-priced prostitution service over an extended period of time.
As some Republicans and some Democrats talked of impeachment, the scandal-scarred Spitzer essentially remained executive an extra day before what most considered to be the inevitable end of his relatively brief tenure.
Expectations were that he would leave it to Lt. Gov. David Paterson to serve out the nearly three years left in his term.
Paterson on Tuesday kept a low profile and prepared for the prospect of succeeding Spitzer, according to people close to the governor.
Spitzer's lawyer spent most of Tuesday conferring with prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office in a scandal that was still reverberating a day after it exploded.
Director of Operations Paul Francis largely ran New York's state government. Top N.Y. commissioners tried to rally their agencies.
Officials in the Spitzer administration expected their boss to step down today, but others denied it.
"I have seen press reports that the governor's resignation is imminent, and that is not true," senior adviser Lloyd Constantine told the Times Union Tuesday afternoon as Spitzer lawyer Michele Hirshman was working with the U.S. Attorney's Office, several sources said. Constantine declined to elaborate.
Paterson stayed out of the public limelight, but his aides took a few questions, including one about his health.
A fainting spell last summer during a flight, the aide said, was checked out by experts who said Paterson is in good health but has a condition that is easily remedied if he discontinues sleeping when his collar is buttoned.
The Harlem Democrat, poised to become New York's first African-American governor, is readying to take over his boss' job under provisions of succession in the state constitution. "He'd be foolish not to," a close aide to Spitzer said.
Republican leaders urged the governor to resign promptly. Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco said impeachment proceedings should commence if Spitzer holds New York's state capital hostage much longer. Negotiations for the state budget, which is due April 1, have all but halted because of the scandal.
Less than 24 hours after the news of Spitzer's participation in a sex-for-hire ring, Tedisco, a Republican from Schenectady, N.Y., said the governor must step down within 48 hours or he would call for impeachment.
At least one Democratic assemblyman, who said he could not be named, was considering the wisdom of forcing the governor out and was walking around with the legal procedure for impeachments in his briefcase.
Yet, most Democrats expected Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Democrat from Manhattan, to block any such action from his 107-member conference.
"That kind of discussion (is) a bit premature," Silver said. "All the facts are not out yet. ... The governor should have time to reflect and repair the damage he's done to his family."
Impeachment cases must be brought by the Assembly and prosecuted by the full GOP-led Senate, which has almost as many Democrats, allies of Spitzer, as Republicans.
Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said Spitzer, who campaigned with her in 2006, should step down if he was indeed involved with a prostitution ring.
"This is very grave and sad news. My heart goes out to the governor's family," Gillibrand said in a prepared statement. "If these serious allegations are true, the governor will have no choice but to resign."
Some supporters spoke on Spitzer's behalf. Assemblyman Carl E. Heastie, Democrat from the Bronx, was among several Democrats who said some lawmakers are unfairly judging Spitzer. Critics portray him as a hypocrite who built a name for himself partly by prosecuting prostitution rings in 2004. Now he is accused of hiring high-priced prostitutes, according to federal records and interviews, and some say he would lack credibility if he returned to Albany.
"It's a wait and see; you gotta have compassion for the situation, for his family and the state as a whole," Heastie said. "I'm not passing any judgment until it plays out; I think that's the fairest thing to do for everyone. The business of the state is continuing. Not any one person is more important than the business of the state."
However, little legislative business got done. The Republican-led Senate held back on issuing its budget plan but planned to pass a resolution today with legislation to follow.
"It's bizarre," said Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV. "I have never seen anything like this in my 20 years as a politician."
Recently arrested for alleged driving while intoxicated, Powell said he understands when people can be wrongly charged: "I will not jump to any conclusions. ... He has not been charged with anything."
Spitzer got caught up in the sex ring as a result of a financial investigation started by the IRS, according to a government source, and it became a public corruption case when it was taken up by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The story of Spitzer's alleged sex romps with prostitutes working for Emperor's Club VIP is generating attention from Troy to Tapei. Some 40 news vehicles parked around the state Capitol with broadcast teams awaiting news of Spitzer's resignation. Reporters in the Capitol were being besieged by producers to appear on network, cable and radio shows.
The scandal dominated talk shows, with some hosts and callers questioning Spitzer's state police security teams for allowing the governor to enter into illegal trysts.Acting Police Superintendent Preston Felton declined to respond to the attacks. "I can't get into that and I think it would be inappropriate to do so at this time," he said. "We'll never discuss a governor's personal security."
Contributing: Michael Gormley, Associated Press