Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the inquiry was no longer necessary since the governor plans to resign later this month, and also questioned whether lawmakers have the authority under state rules to impeach an official who no longer holds office.
The head of the New York State Assembly announced Friday that the chamber would suspend its impeachment investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in light of the governor’s announcement that we would resign later this month following multiple accusations of sexual harassment.
State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the impeachment inquiry, which has been underway since March, is no longer necessary since the governor is voluntarily stepping down from his post.
“The Assembly Judiciary Committee’s impeachment investigation was to determine whether Governor Cuomo should remain in office. The governor’s resignation answers that directive,” Heastie said in a statement.
It is also believed, Heastie added, that the state constitution does not allow the legislature to impeach an elected official who is no longer in office. Cuomo, a third-term Democratic governor, announced his resignation following the release of a report from the state attorney general’s office that concluded he’d sexually harassed 11 women, several of them state staffers at the time.
Heastie said that the impeachment investigation so far, while incomplete, “did uncover credible evidence in relation to allegations that have been made in reference to the governor.” The probe was looking not just into the sexual misconduct claims against the governor but also whether he’d misused state resources when producing a highly-profitable memoir, as well as allegations that he misled the public around the true extent of the state’s COVID-19 nursing home deaths.
“This evidence—we believe—could likely have resulted in articles of impeachment had he not resigned,” Heastie said. The committee will turn over its findings to various “investigatory authorities” that are also digging into accusations against the governor, the speaker added.
The Eastern District of the United States attorney is probing the state’s handling of nursing home deaths, while law enforcement in five different New York counties are investigating the sexual harassment claims against Cuomo, which include that he groped a staffer’s butt and breast and kissed another woman on the lips without consent.
The governor has vehemently denied the most egregious complaints lodged against him, including the accusations of sexual assault, though has admitted to crossing “personal boundaries.”
“I have been too familiar with people,” Cuomo told the public Tuesday in his resignation announcement. “In my mind, I’ve never crossed the line with anyone. But I didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn.”
Heastie’s decision to drop the impeachment investigation will be a blow to many good government advocates as well as some elected officials who have been pushing for the proceedings to move forward. In a statement released Friday an hour before Heastie’s announcement, a coalition of watchdog groups, including Citizens Union, NYPIRG and Reinvent Albany, called for the assembly to publicly release the findings from its probe as a means of restoring trust in state government.
“Over the past decades, New Yorkers have seen a seemingly endless parade of scandals, corruption and abuse of power that has forced out two former Governors, two Senate leaders, a state Attorney General, an Assembly Speaker and a state Comptroller, among others,” the organizations said.
Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. His resignation will take effect on Aug. 24, at which point his lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, will take over, becoming the first woman governor of New York.