New York state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced Friday that lawmakers were suspending their impeachment investigation into Andrew Cuomo, citing the governor’s resignation.
The “Assembly will suspend its impeachment investigation upon the governor’s resignation taking effect on August 25,” Heastie said in a statement despite calls from legislators on both sides of the aisle to continue the monthslong probe. Heastie said last week that the Assembly Judiciary Committee’s investigation was nearly completed.
On Friday, Heastie said in his statement that the purpose of the probe “was to determine whether Governor Cuomo should remain in office. The governor’s resignation answers that directive.”
The timing was a surprise because the Judiciary Committee was scheduled to meet Monday to discuss its next steps. Committee chair Charles Lavine later on Friday announced the meeting had been canceled.
Heastie said another reason for the announcement — which took some committee members by surprise — it that Lavine told him of a “belief” that the state’s Constitution does not authorize the impeachment of an elected official no longer in office. To bolster that position, Heastie released an unsigned memorandum of law on the question that concluded: “probably not, although the question has not been definitively answered in New York State jurisprudence.”
Since Cuomo’s announcement Tuesday that he was stepping down in the wake of a withering report by the state attorney general alleging he’d sexually harassed almost a dozen women, several state lawmakers had urged the committee to at least issue its findings, while others urged the Assembly to press forward to bar Cuomo from ever running for state office again.
Lindsey Boylan, a former Cuomo aide who accused him of harassment, called Friday’s announcement, “an unjust cop out.”
“The public deserves to know the extent of the Governor’s misdeeds and possible crimes,” she said in a tweet. “His victims deserve justice and to know he will not be able harm others.”
“We deserve better,” she added.
State Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt said the decision “reeks of a shady deal to protect Andrew Cuomo,” adding in a statement, “Resignation is not accountability.”
David Weprin, a Democratic member of the state Judiciary Committee, told NBC News he was not consulted about Heastie’s announcement ahead of time but agreed with the decision not to proceed with articles of impeachment given Cuomo’s resignation. Weprin said he would continue to push for the investigation to be completed, and for the committee to issue a report on its findings.
“We did spend months and months on the investigation, and it should be seen by the public,” Weprin said.
In addition to the sexual harassment claims, the impeachment probe was reviewing allegations that the governor and his staff underreported the number of Covid-19 related deaths in nursing homes, and that Cuomo misused state resources to publish a book on leadership during the coronavirus crisis.
Cuomo has vehemently denied any wrongdoing in all the issues being investigated and has not been charged with any crimes.
Heastie said “the committee’s work over the last several months, although not complete, did uncover credible evidence in relation to allegations that have been made in reference to the governor.”
“This evidence, we believe, could likely have resulted in articles of impeachment had he not resigned,” Heastie continued, adding that’s he’s asked Lavine “to turn over to the relevant investigatory authorities all the evidence the committee has gathered.”
State Sen. Sean Ryan, a Democrat, said in a statement that he hopes the committee at least releases its findings.
“I think the taxpayers deserve to see what the Assembly has found,” Ryan said.