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Assembly Drops Impeachment of Cuomo, Citing Potential Legal Issues

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The New York State Assembly
Credit: New York NOW

Gov. Andrew Cuomo Will Not be Impeached, Assembly Drops Probe

The impeachment investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be dropped by the State Assembly after the three-term governor announced his resignation this week, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said Friday.

Heastie said Assembly Judiciary Chair Charles Lavine, with help from attorneys, determined that it wouldn’t be legal to impeach Cuomo after he leaves office.

“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,” Heastie said in a statement.

Members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, who were scheduled to meet in Albany Monday to decide amongst themselves whether the investigation would continue, were reportedly not consulted on the decision made by Lavine and Heastie. That meeting has since been cancelled.

The announcement comes after five months of work from the Assembly’s independent attorneys on the probe, who were paid with public funds.

Heastie said he’s asked Lavine to hand over any relevant information from the unfinished investigation to local and federal prosecutors, who could be interested in pursuing criminal charges against Cuomo.

It’s unclear if the findings of the probe will be released to the public, but Heastie said the investigation did find misconduct from Cuomo.

“This evidence — we believe — could likely have resulted in articles of impeachment had he not resigned,” Heastie said.

While lawyers for Lavine argued that state law wouldn’t allow for the investigation to move forward, Assembly Republican Leader Will Barclay said attorneys for his conference don’t share that opinion.

“We do have attorneys on staff, and they advised me that we could move forward,” Barclay said in an interview to air on New York NOW this weekend.

After Heastie’s announcement Friday, Barclay doubled down.

“Moving forward with the impeachment would have brought a necessary conclusion to an important endeavor and ensured Andrew Cuomo would never be permitted to hold statewide office,” Barcay said. “Instead, mountains of evidence and months of work will now be hidden from the public by this disappointing, tone-deaf decision.”

The news tops off a week in which Cuomo announced his resignation after a report from the New York Attorney General’s Office found claims of sexual harassment made against him by several women to be credible.

But the Assembly’s impeachment investigation was expected to cover several other areas of alleged misconduct from the governor, like his handling of nursing homes during the pandemic, whether he used state resources to write his pandemic memoir, and more.

The Judiciary Committee, which has handled the probe since March, had indicated last week that it was close to wrapping up the investigation, giving Cuomo until Friday to submit his defense against the probe. It’s unclear if that’s still happening.

The announcement from Heastie was quick to draw criticism from both Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature, with some saying the Assembly should move forward with impeachment regardless, and others asking for the probe’s findings to be released.

State Sen. Jeremy Cooney, a Democrat from Rochester, said he disagreed with the decision, and suggested that lawmakers could work to amend the state constitution to make impeachment in a similar situation possible.

“New York State’s constitution limits the ability by which the members of the legislature are able to act against a governor who has already vacated their office. Let this be a somber reminder to continually reassess our laws to ensure those who have been granted power by the voters are not able to abuse it,” Cooney said.

“It is my hope we will come together as a state to amend our constitution to continue to increase transparency and hold all elected office holders accountable in New York.”

Assemblymember Dan Quart, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that he was disappointed, and that the investigation should continue to at least issue a report of its findings.

"We have not completed that work, nor can that work be completed by August 25th," Quart said. "At the very least, the committee should have fully completed its investigation, generated a report detailing all aspects of the Governor’s misconduct and violations of state law, and made that report public."

Sources say that multiple Democrats on the Judiciary Committee agreed with Lavine’s conclusion to drop the probe, though they haven’t publicly said as much.