Assembly Speaker Heastie greenlights impeachment inquiry into Cuomo

FILE PHOTO: Electors gather to cast their votes for the U.S. presidential election at the State Capitol in Albany
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, shown during the Dec. 14, 2020 electoral college vote in Albany, authorized on March 11, 2021 an impeachment inquiry into sexual harassment allegations against Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Hans Pennink/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

The pressure continued to ramp up on Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday night after Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie gave the chamber’s Judiciary Committee the go-ahead to launch an impeachment investigation into the sexual harassment allegations made against the state’s chief executive in recent days.

After six women have alleged the governor sexually harassed them, Cuomo’s popularity within Albany’s political circle has dwindled with calls for his resignation appearing on a statement Thursday morning signed by 59 legislators from both houses and both parties.

With Cuomo currently rebuffing all calls for his resignation as politics-as-usual, Heastie’s authorization of an impeachment investigation was anything but — with a Democratic-dominated state house moving to potentially oust a Democratic governor in a state that hasn’t impeached a chief executive in more than a century.

“The reports of accusations concerning the governor are serious,” Heastie said in a statement. “The committee will have the authority to interview witnesses, subpoena documents and evaluate evidence, as is allowed by the New York State Constitution. I have the utmost faith that Assemblymember [Charles] Lavine and the members of the committee will conduct an expeditious, full and thorough investigation.”

State Attorney General Letitia James quickly issued her own statement following the determinations by Heastie that followed a day of deliberation by the Assembly Majority Conference discussing the matter of impeachment. According to James, her investigation into the governor’s conduct will not be influence by outside forces.

“Today’s action by the New York state legislature will have no bearing on our independent investigation into these allegations against Governor Cuomo. Our investigation will continue,” James said.

Were the governor to be removed from office, or if he were to resign beforehand, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul would take the reins to serve out the remainder of the term, which expires at the end of 2022.

Cuomo has been resistant to the calls from state Senate Majority Leaders Andrea Stewart-Cousins, among many others, for him to resign arguing that for him to be forced out of office on the basis of allegations would be denying him due process.

Long-time Cuomo rival Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday that six allegations was just too many for the governor to continue managing the state, an opinion he has held since the very first claims surfaced.

“It’s deeply troubling the specific allegation that the Governor called an employee of his – someone who he had power over – called them to a private place and then sexually assaulted her is absolutely unacceptable,” de Blasio said. “It is disgusting to me and he can no longer serve as Governor. It’s as simple as that.”

Stewart-Cousins said on Sunday that the scandals surrounding the governor were a distraction from business of governing the state and navigating what seems to be the tail end of the COVID-19 pandemic.