Assembly drops Cuomo impeachment probe after finding ‘credible’ evidence

Assembly drops Cuomo impeachment probe after finding ‘credible’ evidence
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, right, appears with state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in 2015. (Photo from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office via Flickr)

The state Assembly suspended its impeachment investigation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday even after the probe uncovered evidence of wrongdoing by the soon-to-be-former governor.

The move came three days after Cuomo announced he would resign later this month after a decade in office — a decision that would legally prevent state lawmakers from impeaching him, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said.

Assemblyman Charles Lavine — the North Shore Democrat leading the impeachment investigation as chair of the chamber’s Judiciary Committee — advised the speaker that the state constitution “does not authorize the legislature to impeach and remove an elected official who is no longer in office,” Heastie said.

While the constitution empowers lawmakers to disqualify an impeached official from holding office in the future, it doesn’t indicate that impeachment proceedings can take place when removing that official from office “is not the central determination,” according to a legal memo Heastie cited.

Heastie said the committee’s probe would have spelled more bad news for Cuomo had it continued. Investigators unearthed “credible evidence in relation to allegations that have been made in reference to the governor,” including his administration’s handling of data about COVID-19 in nursing homes and his use of state resources to publish his memoir about the pandemic in addition to the well-documented sexual harassment accusations that were central to his downfall.

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

But the move outraged some lawmakers who wanted to continue the investigation to avoid Cuomo from evading accountability for his alleged abuses.

Heastie said he asked Lavine to hand over the Judiciary Committee’s findings to local, state and federal prosecutors who are investigating the allegations against Cuomo. But the speaker did not say whether the Assembly would release a public report outlining what its investigators found — a step some lawmakers said was necessary.

“At the very least, the Committee must issue a report with all of our findings,” said Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, a Queens Democrat who sits on the Judiciary Committee. “Without accountability, we set a precedent of abdicating responsibility and allowing abuse of power to continue.”

Heastie’s move also drew fire from Lindsey Boylan, a former state employee who was among the first to publicly accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment.

Heastie “is certainly no profile in courage,” Boylan said on Twitter. “He dragged his feet on an investigation and grossly said, ‘any one of us in this place could be accused.’ Now he’s ready to forget about it. We deserve better.”

A spokesperson for Heastie did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. Cuomo’s office also did not respond to a request for comment.

Lavine did not comment Friday other than to announce that a Judiciary Committee meeting scheduled for Monday had been canceled.

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