ALBANY (AP) — The New York state Assembly will suspend its impeachment investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo once he steps down, the chamber’s top Democrat said Friday.
Cuomo announced his resignation on Tuesday over sexual harassment allegations, days after he faced increasing pressure to resign or face the possibility of being ousted by the Democratic-controlled Legislature through the impeachment process. Cuomo said at the time that it would not take effect for 14 days, at which point he will be replaced by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.
The state attorney general last week released an independent investigation that found Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women.
Speaker Carl Heastie said in a statement that the Assembly Judiciary Committee had heard from its lawyers that it can’t impeach and remove an elected official no longer in office. Nevertheless, Heastie said, the evidence the committee had gathered “could likely have resulted in articles of impeachment had he not resigned.”
Since March, outside lawyers have been helping the committee conduct a wide-ranging investigation on whether there were grounds to impeach Cuomo, a Democrat. The announcement came on a day the Assembly had initially set as a deadline for Cuomo’s legal team to respond with any additional evidence refuting the allegations against him.
Cuomo’s office and lawyer, Rita Glavin, didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment from The Associated Press about whether the governor was going to comply with the deadline.
“Let me be clear — 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,” Lavine said.
That included evidence related to sexual harassment, the misuse of state resources in conjunction with publication of the governor’s book on the pandemic, and “improper and misleading disclosure of nursing home data.”
As the answer to the legal question of impeaching a departed official remained unclear for several days, some Democrats, including Assemblymember Ron Kim, had urged the Assembly to impeach Cuomo anyway to prevent him from running for office again in New York.
Heastie said that he’s asked Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Lavine to turn over “to the relevant investigatory authorities all the evidence the committee has gathered.”
Cuomo faces ongoing probes from the state attorney general over his $5 million book deal and from state prosecutors, who are scrutinizing his handling of nursing home deaths data. The state’s ethics commissioners, who could levy fines against Cuomo, are also looking into similar issues.
Heastie also cited “active investigations” by county district attorneys in Manhattan, Albany, Westchester, Nassau and Oswego concerning incidents of alleged sexual harassment by Cuomo.
Several women have said the governor inappropriately touched them, including a current aide who said he groped her breasts at his official residence, the Executive Mansion, last November. That aide, Brittany Commisso, filed a criminal complaint that could result in a misdemeanor groping charge.
Some Judiciary committee members, including Democrats Phil Steck and Kenneth Braunstein, said Friday morning that they wanted the committee to at least release a report of their findings to the public.
Heastie’s statement didn’t say whether the committee would still publicize its findings.
Heastie’s spokeperson Mike Whyland didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment Friday. Heastie on Monday estimated the probe has cost taxpayers “millions” so far, but didn’t respond to repeated requests by the AP for an estimate.