State of State-New York

New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (from left), Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie are seen Jan. 8, 2020, before Cuomo delivered his State of the State address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany, N.Y.

(The Center Square) – New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced Friday afternoon that the impeachment inquiry into Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be dropped in light of his promise to resign.

Heastie, a longtime ally of Cuomo who was one of the last holdouts among state leaders when it came to calling for the governor to step down following sexual harassment allegations, said impeachment was made moot by his resignation and that it was uncertain whether they had the legal authority to move forward anyway.

"There are two reasons for this decision," Heastie said in a news release. "First, the purpose of the Assembly Judiciary Committee’s impeachment investigation was to determine whether Governor Cuomo should remain in office. The governor’s resignation answers that directive. Second, we have been advised by Chair [Charles] 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."

Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, announced Aug. 10 that he would be resigning effective in 14 days, bowing to the wave of public condemnation and the likelihood that impeachment would result in his removal following a report from the state Attorney General's Office that supported the sexual harassment allegations of 11 women.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul is to be sworn in as New York's first female governor after Cuomo steps down.

The Assembly's investigation into Cuomo's possible misdeeds had a more wide-ranging mandate than the one conducted by the Attorney General's Office, also looking into allegations that the governor and his staff had sought to suppress the number of nursing home deaths tied to COVID-19, that he had used staff resources to compile his book on leadership during the pandemic, and more.

Heastie argued that the Assembly probe was not a waste of time despite wrapping up without making any findings or taking action.

"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," he said in the statement. "Underscoring the depth of this investigation, this evidence concerned not only sexual harassment and misconduct but also the misuse of state resources in relation to the publication of the governor’s memoir as well as improper and misleading disclosure of nursing home data during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This evidence – we believe – could likely have resulted in articles of impeachment had he not resigned," he continued.

Unsurprisingly, Heastie's announcement quickly drew condemnation, given that both Democratic and Republican lawmakers had already called for the impeachment process to continue.

"The decision from Assembly Democrats to suspend the impeachment investigation reeks of a shady deal to protect Andrew Cuomo," said Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, the top Republican in that chamber, in a statement. "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."

Among the reasons that some had argued to continue with impeachment was the opportunity to not only lay out the full scope of Cuomo's possible misconduct, but also a chance to bar him from further serving in public office, prevent him from collecting a public pension, and deter future corruption.

"Every Albany Democrat must be held accountable for letting this Criminal Governor walk," tweeted U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. "The Albany cesspool is alive and well. Pay to play and corruption at its absolute worst."

The New York chapter of the Working Families Party, a left-wing organization that had endorsed Cuomo in past elections, was similarly dismayed by the end of the impeachment probe.

"Resignation is not accountability," the party wrote on Twitter. "Andrew Cuomo must be impeached and never again allowed to hold a position of power."

Heastie said that materials gathered by the committee in the course of its investigations would be handed over to other entities still looking into the governor's conduct.

"We are well aware that the attorney general is investigating issues concerning the governor’s memoir; the Eastern District of the United States attorney has been investigating the administration’s actions concerning nursing home data; and there are active investigations by local law enforcement authorities in five jurisdictions – Manhattan, Albany, Westchester, Nassau and Oswego – concerning incidents of sexual misconduct," Heastie said.

Managing Editor

Delphine Luneau is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience. She was the editor of Suburban Life Media when its flagship was named best weekly in Illinois, and she has worked at papers in South Carolina, Indiana, Idaho and New York.