Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in a Capital Tonight interview on Friday defended the decision to suspend an impeachment investigation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, pointing to the constitutional concerns that have been raised in recent days as well as the separate investigations by law enforcement.
Heastie, meanwhile, insisted no deal had been cut with Cuomo, who resigns Aug. 24 amid a sexual harassment scandal, to hit the pause button on the investigation.
"There was no deal," Heastie said. "I've said that 150 times and I'll make that the 151st time."
Heastie also knocked Republicans for criticizing the move announced earlier on Friday, calling it hypocritical given the allegations against figures like Rep. Tom Reed and former President Donald Trump. Reed, once considered a potential candidate for governor, is not seeking re-election after he was accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior.
"They've never called out Donald Trump. As a matter of fact, their members who have never called on Tom Reed, Congressman Tom Reed," he said. "So, I think the Republicans are being a little hypocritical for trying to accuse me — the first Democratic Assembly speaker to call for the impeachment inquiry of a governor of my own party."
He added, "I don't know how I can be accused of that if this committee uncovered evidence on the book and the nursing homes."
The Assembly began its impeachment inquiry earlier this year, drawing in a range of controversies that have dogged the governor for much of 2020, including the harassment allegations, the reporting of nursing home fatality data and the use of government resources to help him write a book about the pandemic that led to a $5.1 million contract.
Heastie pointed to the criminal probes that are already underway, including a federal investigation over the nursing home data as well as one being conducted by the Albany County Sheriff's Office over an allegation Cuomo inappropriately touched a woman at the Executive Mansion.
"The concern behind that is if you're in the middle of an investigation and other law enforcement is in the middle of this, I don't want to step on their toes while there are criminal investigations that are ongoing," Heastie said.
The work generated by the Assembly Judiciary Committee is set to be forwarded to law enforcement. But issuing a report, without impeaching Cuomo, would have interfered with ongoing investigations.
Heastie reiterated "credible evidence that could have led to articles of impeachment" were found.
But impeaching Cuomo, with a trial taking place after he's left office, would have likely been unconstitutional, he said. The constitutional concern is one that's been backed up by independent attorneys who have studied impeachment issues.
"What were we constitutionally able to do?" Heastie said. "We had our lawyers look at that and they confirmed we could not move forward with articles of impeachment."