NEW YORK (REUTERS) – Lawmakers in the New York Assembly have suspended their impeachment investigation of Governor Andrew Cuomo in light of his promise to step down from office over sexual harassment complaints, Speaker Carl Heastie said in a statement on Friday (Aug 13).
The Assembly, controlled by Cuomo’s fellow Democrats, opened the impeachment investigation in March after at least two women who formerly worked for the governor went public with complaints that Cuomo had sexually harassed them.
A damning report released this month by the state’s attorney-general concluded Cuomo had broken state and federal law by harassing at least 11 women, including aides and a state trooper.
Cuomo said on Tuesday he would resign and leave office in two weeks. He has denied harassing anyone, though he has acknowledged making some women uncomfortable by engaging in what he characterised as well-intentioned efforts to show affection.
Heastie said the impeachment inquiry was no longer needed since its purpose was “to determine whether Governor Cuomo should remain in office.”
He also said lawmakers have been advised by legal counsel that the state’s constitution does not allow the legislature to impeach an elected official who is no longer in office.
If impeached in the state Assembly, Cuomo would have faced a trial in the state Senate, which also has a Democratic majority.
A conviction would permit lawmakers to bar Cuomo from ever holding public office again.
Prior to his resignation, Cuomo appeared almost certain to be impeached and ousted from office, as Democratic legislators abandoned him following the report from Attorney-General Letitia James’ office.
The impeachment probe was not limited to the harassment allegations.
Investigators were also examining whether the Cuomo administration deliberately under-reported nursing home deaths during the coronavirus pandemic as well as whether Cuomo improperly used state resources in penning a published memoir.
While incomplete, the inquiry had gathered enough evidence to likely result in impeachment had Cuomo not stepped down, Heastie said.
Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing with regard to nursing home data as well as his book.
He still faces potential criminal investigations from several district attorneys’ offices.
Lieutenant-Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, will become the state’s first female governor when she takes over for Cuomo.
She announced on Thursday she intends to run for a full term in 2022.