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Eric Schneiderman: Why the AG is leaving office and what happens to his open investigations

Could the attorney general's resignation affect his high-profile cases or Robert Mueller's Russia inquiry?
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Photo: Getty Images

Faced with accusations of assault, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is resigning effective tonight.

Why Eric Schneiderman is leaving office

In a New Yorker story published yesterday afternoon, four women who had been in relationships with Schneiderman accused him of violence — hitting and choking them repeatedly, particularly after drinking, without consent.

Schneiderman denied the allegations. “In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity. I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in nonconsensual sex, which is a line I would not cross,” he said.

Around 9pm, Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked for Schneiderman's resignation. Soon after, Schneiderman provided it.

“It’s been my great honor and privilege to serve as attorney general for the people of the State of New York,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “In the last several hours, serious allegations, which I strongly contest, have been made against me.

"While these allegations are unrelated to my professional conduct or the operations of the office, they will effectively prevent me from leading the office’s work at this critical time. I therefore resign my office, effective at the close of business on May 8, 2018.”

What happens to Eric Schneiderman's investigations?

Schneiderman, a Democrat, has launched a number of investigations favored by progressive New Yorkers involving the #MeToo movement, consumer protections, the internet and the Trump administration. In February, Schneiderman announced the state would sue the Weinstein Company for years of sexual misconduct by its founder Harvey Weinstein.

The AG's office is also investigating fake comments, made with stolen identities, on the FTC's comment site for net neutrality. The preponderance of those comments made the public seem supportive of eliminating net neutrality, when organic comments showed the opposite was true.

Last month, Schneiderman announced an investigation into the legitimacy of 13 bitcoin exchanges.

Schneiderman was also widely viewed as the backup for special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign's possible collusion with Russia. President Trump could pardon himself and his associates, but presidents have no pardon power over state charges. Yesterday, fear was expressed that these investigations, viewed as a riposte to a presidential administration looking to subvert legal checks and balances, could be in jeopardy.

The New York State Assembly will choose a replacement for Schneiderman, who was up for re-election in November. That person could run to be elected then in their own right. State solicitor general Barbara Underwood will serve as acting attorney general until the assembly makes its selection.

And Schneiderman's investigations are up in the air. "It isn’t immediately clear whether the scandal will impact investigations Schneiderman’s office opened during his tenure, which also include one into Exxon’s accounting practices relating to climate change," Bloomberg reported on Tuesday morning.