Assembly Judiciary Committee suspending its impeachment investigation into Cuomo

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The New York State Assembly Judiciary Committee will suspend its impeachment investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo the day after he leaves office, House Speaker Carl Heastie announced 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 his resignation becomes official on Aug. 24, at which point he will be replaced by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a 62-year-old Democrat and former member of Congress from the Buffalo area.

RELATED CONTENT: Cuomo Under Investigation

On Aug. 3, the state Attorney General Letitia James released her office’s findings that concluded Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women. During his resignation speech, Cuomo, 63, denies that he touched anyone inappropriately and said his instinct was to fight back against the harassment claims. But he said it was best for him to step aside so the state’s leaders could "get back to governing."

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. 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 the 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.

Republican members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, including Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes (R, C-Caledonia), released a joint statement Wednesday, saying the people of New York deserve a "full public disclosure" of information obtained in the committee’s investigation so far.

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.

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 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 spokesperson 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 Associated Press for an estimate.

Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt Friday sent an open letter to Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Lavine urging him to make the findings of the impeachment investigation public. Read the full letter below:

Letter to Assemblyman Lavine by News10NBC on Scribd

Ortt and New York State Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy will hold a press conference on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. in Kenmore about the decision.