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New York Assembly to halt Cuomo impeachment probe after resignation

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement of his resignation on Tuesday answered the primary directive of the state assembly’s impeachment inquiry, the chamber’s top Democrat wrote on Friday of the assembly's decision to suspend its work.

ALBANY (CN) — Three days after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation following damning allegations of sexual harassment of 11 women found credible by the state attorney general, lawmakers considering Cuomo's impeachment announced Friday afternoon that Cuomo’s leaving office on Aug. 25 will terminate such proceedings.

“First, the purpose of the Assembly Judiciary Committee’s impeachment investigation was to determine whether Governor Cuomo should remain in office,” the chamber’s top Democrat Carl Heastie wrote in a statement Friday. “The governor’s resignation answers that directive.”

The disgraced governor announced his resignation from office on Tuesday morning one week after Attorney General Letitia James released the findings of an independent probe that detailed evidence for nearly a dozen allegations of sexual harassment against the governor.

Heastie on Friday cited a 6-page memorandum that questions whether the Assembly would have jurisdiction to impeach a governor who had already resigned.

“Second, we have been advised by Chair 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,” the assembly speaker added.

"This evidence — we believe — could likely have resulted in articles of impeachment had he not resigned,” Heastie noted.

Heastie authorized the Assembly Judiciary Committee to begin an inquiry in March 2021 on whether there are grounds to impeach Cuomo. The assembly hired the private firm Davis Polk & Wardwell to conduct the assembly’s own investigation into Cuomo’s alleged misconduct while waiting for Attorney General James to complete her investigation first.

In response to the release of the attorney general’s investigative report last week, Heastie had promised to expedite impeachment proceedings and set an Aug. 13 deadline for Cuomo and his legal team to provide additional evidence in the governor's defense.

Following a two-week transition period concluding Aug. 25, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will serve out the remaining year of Cuomo’s third term.

Hochul, a 62-year-old Democrat who will make history as the state’s first female governor, announced Thursday that she plans to run for her own full term as governor in 2022.

Cuomo, 63, has been elected three times and previously planned to seek a fourth term in the 2022 election.

Scandal jettisoned those plans in 2020, undercutting the national prominence Cuomo had briefly attained for his leadership of New York when the state was an early epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

While also battling charges that his administration underreported Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes, Cuomo was hit last year with allegations from former aides who said he touched them without their consent, made sexually suggestive and gender-based comments, and used retaliatory tactics to keep them quiet.

Assembly Speaker Heastie said on Friday that he had asked Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Charles Lavine, to turn over all the evidence the committee has gathered to the relevant investigatory authorities for their respective ongoing investigations in assorted allegations of misconduct by Cuomo and his executive chamber.

“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,” Speaker Heastie wrote.  “As I have said, this has been a tragic chapter in our state’s history."

In Albany County, Cuomo separately faces a criminal complaint brought by an executive assistant who says the governor reached under her blouse during a hug at Executive Mansion in Albany and fondled one of her breasts.

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said Tuesday afternoon Cuomo’s decision to resign would not impact the county's criminal investigation. “It was never about his office although I appreciate him putting the people of New York first and stepping aside,” Apple said.

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