Under increasing public pressure, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo recused himself Thursday from a two-week-old investigation into Gov. David Paterson and appointed a well-regarded former judge to oversee the probe.

Cuomo, a Democrat who is expected to run for governor, chose former state Chief Juge Judith Kaye as independent counsel.

“It is incredibly important to all of us that the public has 100 percent confidence that this investigation is done properly,” Cuomo told reporters Thursday. “I want to make sure that this is an investigation that is as free from political influence as possible.”

Polls show Cuomo’s popularity has dipped since he began the investigation, and a majority of New Yorkers in a recent survey said he should appoint an independent prosecutor.

Cuomo’s expected Republican opponent in November, Rick Lazio, said the move was overdue.

“It should not have required two weeks and a drop in the polls for Andrew Cuomo to recognize what he should have instinctively known from the beginning,” Lazio said.

City Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) accused Cuomo of leading a “politicized” investigation and said he believes public pressure caused the attorney general to step aside.

Cuomo said on Thursday that polls did not impact his decision and that there so far has been no “technical conflict.”

He would not confirm any plans for a gubernatorial run.

Paterson is being investigated over charges he called a woman who was seeking an order of protection against a top aide and that members of his State Police detail visited her. The woman, Sherr-una Booker, never pressed charges. The governor, who is not seeking election in November, is also being probed for accepting free Yankees World Series tickets.

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“There are credible issues that need to be resolved,” Cuomo said.

Reports Thursday, citing unnamed sources, said investigators had found little evidence to support a witness tampering case against Paterson.

Paterson’s attorney, Theodore Wells, said in a written statement that he respects Cuomo’s decision and looks forward to “a prompt and favorable conclusion to both investigations.”
Staff members who had been working on the case will continue, under the supervision of Kaye, Cuomo said.

“I promise that the public will have a full, fair and independent accounting of the facts,” Kaye, who was the longest-serving and only female chief judge, said in a statement.

Newsday contributed to this story.