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Heastie: NYS Assembly to end Cuomo impeachment investigation

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ALBANY, N.Y. (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.

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.”

Reactions among Western New York lawmakers include that of State Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt, the North Tonawanda Republican, who offered a written statement: "The decision from Assembly Democrats to suspend the impeachment investigation reeks of a shady deal to protect Andrew Cuomo.

"At any point in the last six months, Democrats could have impeached our now disgraced Governor - but that would’ve required courage. Instead, they stalled and bought Andrew Cuomo all the time in the world, while they wasted millions of taxpayer dollars on their sham investigation.

"Resignation is not accountability. The Democrats not only failed in their constitutional responsibilities - they failed the Governor’s countless victims in nursing homes, brave women who came forward to tell their stories, and those who believe in honest and transparent government."

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.

Assemblymember and Buffalo Democrat Sean Ryan echoed those thoughts in his own written statement: "While I understand the legal argument about the inability to impeach a Governor who has resigned, I do hope that the Assembly, at the very least, releases to the public all the evidence uncovered during their impeachment inquiry. They paid an outside firm, just like the Attorney General did, to conduct an investigation and prepare a report. I think the taxpayers deserve to see what the Assembly has found."

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.

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