It’s still going to be another ten days before New York’s soon-to-be ex-Governor officially steps down and is replaced by Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. In the meantime, the state Assembly has formed a committee to review all of the available testimony and information, including the State Attorney General’s damning report, and consider impeachment proceedings. Or at least that was the plan until Friday. Speaker Carl Heastie, a longtime Cuomo ally, seemed to take everyone by surprise yesterday (including his own Democratic Party) by announcing that the impeachment probe was on hold and would be suspended after the Governor steps down. The only reasons he managed to come up with for this action are dubious in the extreme and the assembly members who have already been digging into the case are almost universally flummoxed over how this state of affairs came to pass. More than a few are now asking if there was some sort of secret deal in place. (NY Post)
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie will ‘suspend’ the impeachment investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo, saying that the probe was unneeded after the scandal-scarred executive announced his intention to resign, even though it had found evidence of misconduct.
“[T]he Assembly will suspend its impeachment investigation upon the governor’s resignation taking effect on August 25,” Heastie said in a statement released by his office Friday, in a decision that he said was backed by his fellow Democrats, who control the chamber…
The decision comes just three days after Cuomo stunned the state by announcing he would resign from office instead of battling for his political survival following the publication of a bombshell 168-page report from Attorney General Letitia James, which found he sexually harassed or groped 11 women, including several state employees.
Heastie is offering up two reasons for this decision. The first was to say that the impeachment proceedings are “no longer needed” because the Governor is removing himself from office voluntarily. The second was that his team had reviewed the state constitution and found that it “did not allow them to move to impeach an official who had already stepped down from office.”
Having gone back and reviewed the section of the state constitution dealing with impeachment again, both of those answers strike me as nonsensical. (It’s rather short, found in Section 24 under “Vacancies.”) Saying that impeachment is “no longer needed” ignores the two options offered to the legislature when contemplating the impeachment of a governor. The first is simply “removal from office.” But the second is, “removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any public office of honor, trust, or profit under this state.” Cuomo can remove himself from office, but this decision nullifies the legislature’s option of barring him from future terms in elected office.
The second argument is even weaker. There isn’t a single word in that section of the state constitution requiring the person to still be in office when they are impeached. Where Heastie is dredging that up from is a mystery.
As I mentioned above, all of this has people asking if there wasn’t some sort of back-room deal struck with Cuomo wherein he would avoid impeachment if he agreed to leave the stage quietly and (relatively) quickly. Heastie is telling the press that nothing could be further from the truth. “There was no deal,” Heastie said. “I’ve said that 150 times and I’ll make that the 151st time.”
Not for nothing, Mister Speaker, but if 151 people are asking you if there was a deal, it sounds like a lot of people suspect there was a deal. As to his claim that his fellow Democrats supported the decision, that’s more malarkey. I was watching the local coverage out of Albany this morning and one Democrat after another said canceling the impeachment proceedings was a bad idea. That included several Democrats on the committee that was doing the investigation.
Heastie is a close confidant of Andrew Cuomo as I already said. His name came up multiple times in the “Buffalo billion” scheme that saw multiple Cuomo allies and donors end up in jail. He was the one person with the power to kill the impeachment hearings, so this could have all been quietly arranged in a two-person, private meeting any time in the past few weeks. The other player who might have been involved is the Lieutenant Governor. Remember that she wouldn’t answer reporters’ questions about whether or not she would consider pardoning Cuomo if he is eventually convicted on sexual assault charges. This is New York we’re talking about here and Tammany Hall never really went away entirely. There’s no telling what sort of offers were quietly put on the table to convince Cuomo to exit stage left.