Will the New York state Assembly move forward with its impeachment investigation now that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has resigned? Can the Assembly even continue the process?
Those remain open questions. The state constitution says a governor convicted in a Senate impeachment trial could be barred from holding public office in the state.
Democrat Tom Abinanti, an Assembly Judiciary Committee member, says lawmakers are waiting to hear from Chair Chuck Levine about whether the committee will move ahead with plans to wrap up its wide-ranging impeachment probe in "weeks."
Abinanti said the committee has asked its lawyers if there’s a “legal basis to continue with an impeachment investigation and issue articles of impeachment if the governor resigns.” He says he hopes the committee will proceed with the investigation and make a full report.
Before the governor announced his resignation, there was near-unanimous support in the state Assembly and Senate for impeaching the governor and removing him from office, NBC New York was told, although legislative sources said that it is doubtful they will continue with the impeachment process now that Cuomo has agreed to step down.
Assemblymember Catalina Cruz from Queens said the Assembly Judiciary Committee will meet again next week to discuss what happens next in the impeachment probe. She said she has already spoken to some committee members on Tuesday about a path forward. However, she did not reveal what was said in those conversations and only said that there are thoughts about the "pro and cons" of impeachment.
"Ultimately our power, once you go through an impeachment proceeding, is to actually remove the person from their seat and prevent them from ever holding that seat again," Cruz said. "But I think, you know, there needs to be consideration as to what is best of New Yorkers."
State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, D-NY, a witness in the Attorney General Letitia James' report on Cuomo and a critic of the governor, said Tuesday that Cuomo's resignation is not accountability for his alleged sexual harassment of nearly a dozen women and urged the assembly to continue with the impeachment proceedings.
"We haven't had a full reckoning of the many ways that not only Governor Cuomo has harmed the women but also our government and our state," Biaggi said. "If we don't follow all the way through, he will continue to be permitted to run for office, for any office that he so chooses. And two, where it leaves us is it's sending a signal that our sexual harassment laws in New York are not real."
Attorney Jerry Goldfeder told NBC New York that impeachment of a former governor would be unprecedented, and that decision would likely be political — not legal, as it would be uncharted territory if the decision is made to proceed after Cuomo's final 14 days in office. Goldfeder said it's possible the Assembly could rush to act before the two weeks are up, but adds that it is highly unlikely.
As for the criminal investigation, two local prosecutors are saying they will continue investigations into possible criminal actions by Cuomo. In Albany, a former aide to the governor, Brittany Commisso, filed a criminal complaint last week. She has said Cuomo sexually harassed her when he hugged, kissed and touched her inappropriately.
A spokesperson for the Albany County district attorney’s office, Cecilia Walsh, said, the office’s "inquiry into criminal conduct in our jurisdiction remains open and pending." The sheriff's office also said that their investigation is ongoing despite Tuesday's political developments.
In Nassau County, a spokesperson for the district attorney’s office said their investigation is continuing.
A Long Island lawmaker who's running for the governor's office, GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin, on Tuesday said Cuomo must face "criminal repercussion" because he broke the law.
It was not immediately clear how the district attorneys of Manhattan, Westchester County and Oswego County intended to proceed. Those prosecutors previously have said they were looking into the sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo.
The governor also still faces ongoing investigations into the potential misuse of state resources for his pandemic book and questions about the nursing home scandal.
The publisher of Cuomo’s book on his handling of the coronavirus, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” had announced earlier this year that it halted promotion as Cuomo faced allegations of his treatment of women and that aides manipulated nursing home data. On Tuesday, Crown Publishing reaffirmed its decision and said that it would no longer print hardcovers of the book, which came out last fall, or issue a paperback edition.
Cuomo had faced criticism from the time he announced his book, in August 2020, with many noting he was praising himself for a job that had yet to be completed.
The attorney general's investigation into the governor's book deal regarding the use of state resources by staff will also continue. The federal investigation into the nursing home death data is ongoing.
Goldfeder told News 4 that Cuomo can use his massive campaign war chest — about $18 million — to pay legal bills associated with his time in office, but that money cannot be used to pay any civil settlements. That money can also be used to donate to other campaigns, charity or his own future campaign (assuming he is not impeached and removed, which would bar him from seeking public office).
What is not clear, Goldfeder said, is what will happen to book deal-related funds if it is found that the governor improperly used state resources. A likely outcome would be that Cuomo would have to pay back the state for time used, in addition to a fine, Goldfeder said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.