While New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo finishes his last two weeks in office after announcing his resignation on Tuesday, the New York State Assembly’s impeachment investigation into the governor appears to be coming to a close soon.
The Assembly’s Judiciary Committee has given Cuomo a Friday deadline to submit any further evidence and statements of defense as the panel looks into allegations of sexual misconduct against Cuomo and misuse of state funds and resources. Whether it moves forward with impeachment after that is unclear, but some lawmakers are adamant that impeachment is a necessary step to hold Cuomo accountable and prevent him from running for office again.
“The impeachment investigation does not stop automatically just because the governor resigned. It can continue. … We have not heard anything on that yet,” New York state Sen. Andrew Gounardes told NPR, adding he believes the investigation should move forward.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has not provided updates on the investigation since Monday, but the chamber’s Judiciary Committee is still slated to meet early next week to review documents.
Heastie released a statement Tuesday saying that Cuomo’s decision to step down was the right choice.
“The brave women who stepped forward were heard. Everyone deserves to work in a harassment-free environment. I have spoken with Lieutenant Governor [Kathy] Hochul and I look forward to working with her,” he said.
Heastie’s office did not respond to a request for comment when asked if the impeachment and investigation proceedings will continue.
There is a sense of urgency among lawmakers
While lawmakers are waiting to hear the next steps from Assembly leadership, there is still a sense of urgency to hold Cuomo accountable.
“We are lacking a lot of sunlight in this process,” Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou said about Cuomo’s resignation. “We still owe it to the victims of the governor’s predatory behavior to actually have a full accounting of what happened, even if he’s no longer in power. We definitely should be feeling urgency.”
An investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James found that Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women and retaliated against one employee who went public with her experience. But the Assembly’s impeachment investigation is not just looking into allegations of sexual misconduct. It’s also examining reports of other alleged abuses of power, including whether Cuomo misused government funds for his book deal. There is also another state investigation into why thousands of nursing home deaths from COVID-19 went unreported under Cuomo.
Cuomo, for his part, has apologized for his actions but called the sexual harassment allegations “false” and said the investigation has been “politically motivated.” He has also denied that there was an undercounting of nursing home patients who died of COVID-19.
“We still have to account for all of his misdeeds while he was there,” Gounardes said.
Niou, a Democrat, added that she and many of her colleagues are also simply tired of Cuomo’s efforts to avoid any responsibility. When Cuomo announced he was resigning, Niou was in an Assembly hearing on eviction and housing, and said she and her colleagues high-fived and applauded when they heard the news.
Cuomo’s troubles could go beyond impeachment
Impeachment of a sitting governor in New York has only occurred once — William Sulzer, who was elected governor in 1912 and impeached in 1913 — so there is little precedent for the process. But in the aftermath of Cuomo’s resignation, lawmakers are weighing another aspect of impeachment: They could vote to make sure Cuomo is barred from running for office again.
Impeachment isn’t the only way Cuomo could still be held accountable. A criminal complaint by one of Cuomo’s aides who says the governor groped her has already been filed against him, and it’s possible he could still face civil claims as well, Michelle Simpson Tuegel, a women’s rights attorney, told NPR.
The attorney acknowledged that voters and lawmakers are likely feeling exhausted by impeachments, but she said if lawmakers choose not to move forward with the impeachment process for political reasons, it would be a “cop-out.”
“That’s where having multiple systems for victims to seek justice I think is important, and I hope that we see that,” she said.