New York Assembly May Not Totally Let Cuomo Off the Hook

Photo: Hans Pennink/AP/Shutterstock

On Friday, State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the chamber’s investigation into Andrew Cuomo over sexual-harassment allegations would be suspended, putting an end to speculation about whether the beleaguered governor would face an impeachment trial after he announced his resignation.

The initial statement from Heastie mentioned sharing the committee’s evidence and findings with law-enforcement officials, but there was nothing specific about making those details publicly available. This prompted many calls for the Assembly to release a report of what was discovered in the course of the inquiry.

One such call came from Catalina Cruz, a Democrat on the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee leading the investigation, who said she was “disappointed” by the Assembly’s decision to halt the inquiry and said a report of their findings must be released. “Without accountability, we set a precedent of abdicating responsibility and allowing abuse of power to continue,” she said in a tweet.

Days later, on Monday morning, it was announced that the Assembly will release its findings in a public report. “The Assembly Judiciary Committee will continue to review evidence and issue a final report on its investigation of Governor Cuomo,” Heastie and Judiciary Chair Charles Lavine said in a joint statement.

Heastie and Lavine said the Judiciary Committee intends to make sure that the forming of the report “does not interfere with various ongoing investigations,” including the work of five county district attorneys looking into sexual-harassment claims and the Attorney General’s office’s probe into whether state resources were used to produce Cuomo’s pandemic memoir.

The Assembly’s suspension of the impeachment inquiry was met with swift condemnation by some of the women who came forward with allegations against Cuomo and members from both major parties. For many of them, impeachment and conviction by the state legislature was the only way to ensure that the governor was held accountable for his alleged conduct. In addition, there was the possibility that the State Senate could rule to bar Cuomo from running for statewide office, something that he is free to pursue following his resignation.

Lindsey Boylan, the first woman to go public with allegations of sexual harassment against the governor, called the Assembly’s move to suspend the investigation “an unjust cop out.” Charlotte Bennett, a former aide who also accused Cuomo, said that Heastie “can’t muster enough courage to simply do his job.”

“Speaker Carl Heastie’s unilateral decision to end the impeachment investigation into the Governor sends a very clear message to New Yorkers: the New York State Assembly thinks corruption, sexual harassment/assault and retaliation are acceptable,” she said in a statement.

Democratic assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou called the decision “indefensible,” adding that she believed the Assembly “failed its moral and constitutional duty to New Yorkers.”

Heastie cited Cuomo resigning as one reason for halting the investigation since part of the probe’s mission was to determine whether his removal from office was necessary. However, in the days following his resignation, the governor still seemed defiant, certain that he would’ve survived any impeachment trial.

“I’m not gonna drag the state through the mud, through a three-month, four-month impeachment, and then win, and have made the State Legislature and the state government look like a ship of fools, when everything I’ve done all my life was for the exact opposite,” Cuomo told New York in his first interview post-resignation.

Some Republican members of the legislature have gone so far as to suggest that there was some agreement in place to allow Cuomo to resign rather than be impeached and risk not being able to run for office again. State Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt said the decision “reeks of a shady deal to protect Andrew Cuomo.”

Heastie has repeatedly pushed back on the claim that there was a deal between state lawmakers and Cuomo.

“There was no deal,” he said in a Friday interview with Spectrum News. “I’ve said that 150 times and I’ll make that the 151st time.”

New York Assembly May Not Totally Let Cuomo Off the Hook