Cuomo impeachment investigation to be suspended

The Speaker of the New York State Assembly says the impeachment investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be suspended upon the governor's resignation taking effect on August 25.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie says the decision came after consulting with Chair Charles Lavine and other members of the Assembly.

In a statement on Friday afternoon, he stated:  "There are two reasons for this decision. First, the purpose of the Assembly Judiciary Committee’s impeachment investigation was to determine whether Governor Cuomo should remain in office. The governor’s resignation answers that directive. Second, we have been advised by Chair Lavine - with the assistance of counsel - of the belief that the constitution does not authorize the legislature to impeach and remove an elected official who is no longer in office."

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Governor Cuomo announced that he would resign this week.  It came days after an independent investigation found that he had sexually harassed several women.

Before he announced his resignation, Cuomo said the report on harassment accusations against him contains "serious issues and flaws that should concern all New Yorkers." The governor claims there was a bias and a lack of fairness in the report.

Heastie says the Assembly committee had uncovered credible evidence in relation to allegations that have been made in reference to the governor.  Beyond the sexual harassment probe, he says there was evidence of misuse of state resources in relation to his memoir as well as improper and misleading disclosure of nursing home data during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday's Good Day New York former NY Gov. David Paterson says he didn't see the necessity for the impeachment with Cuomo's resignation.

Cuomo’s office and his lawyer, Rita Glavin, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The first woman to publicly accuse Cuomo of misconduct, Lindsey Boylan, called the Assembly leadership's decision to call off its separate investigation "an unjust cop out."

"The public deserves to know the extent of the Governor’s misdeeds and possible crimes. His victims deserve justice and to know he will not be able harm others," she tweeted.

Several committee members said Heastie's announcement took them by surprise.

Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Lavine, a Democrat, said Heastie alone made the decision to suspend the impeachment investigation.

Committee members were split in their reaction with some like Assemblymember David Weprin, also a Democrat, saying an impeachment trial would have been a "tremendous waste of government resources." Latrice Walker, a Democrat, told NY1 on Tuesday that lawmakers have more important work to do than focus on Cuomo’s "future career choices."

But others objected to the end of the Legislature’s probe. Assemblymember Tom Abinanti, a Westchester Democrat on the committee, called the decision "premature."

"The governor has not even left office," he said. "The committee should continue to meet and issue a public report to the people on the extensive investigation that the committee and its attorneys have conducted to date."

The Republican Minority Leader in the Assembly, Will Barclay, called it "a massive disservice to the goals of transparency and accountability."

The Assembly’s probe has already cost taxpayers at least $1.2 million, according to Lavine.

All six Republicans and nine out of 15 Democrats on the committee said the Assembly should at least release a public report on the findings of the impeachment investigation.

Lavine said he will be consulting with committee members about whether to do so, and will decide once Cuomo resigns.

"That’s something I'm going to give full consideration to," Lavine said. "I expect there will be a full report."

Legal experts this week said they had questions over both the legality and practicality of trying to impeach Cuomo after he’d already left office.

Ross Garber, an attorney who's represented four recent U.S. governors facing impeachment proceedings in their respective states, had told The Associated Press his reading of state law is that a person must be in office at the time of impeachment.

Richard Rifkin, an attorney who's worked in state government for 40 years, including in the attorney general’s office and as special counsel to former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, said the language in the state Constitution on impeachment was "really quite vague" and that there wasn't definitive precedent saying whether impeachment could continue after Cuomo left office.

With the Associated Press.