Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced Friday that the chamber will suspend its impeachment investigation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo when his resignation takes effect later this month and will be referring its evidence to other “relevant investigatory authorities.”
While the Bronx Democrat said in a statement that he made the decision after consulting with Assembly Judiciary Chair Chuck Lavine and his “majority colleagues,” multiple Assembly Democrats said the speaker did not convene a conference of the majority members to solicit their input and a number of members were frustrated or angry about the plan – at least for now – to not publicize the findings from their inquiry.
“Closing down the committee at this point is premature. The governor has not even left office,” said Assembly Judiciary Committee member Tom Abinanti, a Westchester County Democrat.
“The committee should continue to meet and draft a report on the extensive investigation that the committee and its attorneys have conducted,” Abinanti said. “The public has a right to a public report on the four charges that were referred to our committee.”
Assemblyman Phil Steck, a Capital Region Democrat, who also serves on the Judiciary Committee, concurred that a report should be issued.
Based on Heastie’s assertion that the evidence collected “would likely have resulted in articles of impeachment,” Steck said it was important that their findings became public.
Assembly Judiciary Committee member Dan Quart, a Manhattan Democrat, said in a statement that he was disappointed with the speaker’s decision.
“For five months, the Judiciary Committee and its retained counsel diligently fulfilled our constitutional obligation to investigate multiple allegations that the Governor engaged in unlawful activities and abused his powers,” Quart said. “We have not completed that work, nor can that work be completed by August 25th. At the very least, the committee should have fully completed its investigation, generated a report detailing all aspects of the Governor’s misconduct and violations of state law, and made that report public.”
Assemblymember Pat Fahy, a Capital Region Democrat, said the speaker’s decision was appropriate, arguing the governor couldn’t be impeached if he was out of office and noting that seven law enforcement entities would be receiving the information.
“No book is being closed here,” Fahy said.
Assemblyman Ron Kim, a Queens Democrat, who had anticipated the Assembly Democrats would discuss the impeachment investigation’s future before making a decision, said the decision set a “low bar, even for Albany.” He expressed concerns that ending the investigation would normalize corruption and send a message to the entire country that powerful politicians wouldn’t be held accountable in New York.
“This is an investigation that was paid for with taxpayer dollars .. we have an ethical duty to produce results,” Kim said. “We should be transparent.”
Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, a North Country Democrat, expressed his desire Friday that the impeachment investigation continues, but noted – in agreement with Speaker Heastie’s conclusion – that “it has been determined that it is unconstitutional to impeach an elected official who is no longer in office.”
A few hours following the announcement from Heastie, Lavine released a statement announcing Monday’s planned meeting of the Assembly Judiciary Committee was cancelled and “future meetings of the Committee will take place as needed.” He provided no additional information or reaction to the ending of the impeachment probe, aside from referring to the speaker’s statement earlier in the day.
Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay said the decision to end the investigation was “massive disservice to the goals of transparency and accountability.”
“The Legislature had a chance to deliver accountability and justice to the victims of Andrew Cuomo’s failed administration. Today’s announcement is a slap in the face to the people this body was elected to represent,” Barclay said in a statement.
On the Senate side, Rochester Democrat Samra Brouk said she was “incredibly disappointed” with Friday’s news.
“The Governor’s resignation was not an act of nobility—it was because he committed unlawful acts and was out of options,” Brouk said in a statement. “Resignation should not preclude him from being impeached or otherwise held accountable.”