Top New York lawmakers are demanding justice following the revelation from an aide that the governor’s office deliberately held data related to nursing home coronavirus deaths to protect Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) from public criticism and shield the administration from a possible federal investigation.
Melissa DeRosa, New York’s secretary to the governor, confirmed the suspected coverup of coronavirus-related fatalities in New York nursing homes and long-term care facilities in a private phone call with Democrat lawmakers, in which she apologized and said officials “froze” out of fear of a federal investigation. The fear coincided with remarks from former President Trump, who at the time put pressure on blue state governors over their handling of the Chinese coronavirus and the number of related fatalities occurring in their nursing homes. This prompted Cuomo’s administration to suppress the data out of fear it would be “used against” them.
“Because then we were in a position where we weren’t sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice, or what we give to you guys, what we start saying, was going to be used against us while we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation,” she said, adding that the uncertainty “played a very large role into this.”
“They had to first make sure that the state was protected against federal investigation,” Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Queens), who was on the call, said, telling the New York Post it sounded as if “they admitted that they were trying to dodge having any incriminating evidence that might put the administration or the [Health Department] in further trouble with the Department of Justice.”
Top New York lawmakers have since called for action and justice.
“Governor Cuomo, the Secretary to the Governor, and his senior team must be prosecuted immediately – both by the Attorney General of New York State and the U.S. Department of Justice,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) said in a statement following the report, describing the “bombshell” as a “stunning and criminal abuse of power”:
I have said from the beginning that this is more than a nursing home scandal, this is a massive corruption and coverup scandal at the highest level of New York State Government implicating the Governor, the Secretary to the Governor, the New York State Health Commissioner and the Governor’s staff. The families who lost loved ones, New Yorkers, and all Americans deserve accountability from the U.S. Department of Justice that will be independent and not swayed by the desperate political pressure from Governor Cuomo.
Stefanik noted Cuomo’s Friday meeting with President Biden and reminded the commander-in-chief of his responsibility to ensure “independence of the Department of Justice.”
“After the self-implicating admission by Governor Cuomo and his staff, it is clear to every American that this investigation must go forward,” she added:
— Elise Stefanik (@EliseStefanik) February 12, 2021
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) also called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to “immediately open an Obstruction of Justice investigation” into Cuomo and his administration.
“The families of thousands of dead NY seniors deserve accountability,” he said:
DOJ needs to immediately open an Obstruction of Justice investigation into Gov Cuomo & his admin. It's now being reported there has been a direct admission of their nursing home coverup. The families of thousands of dead NY seniors deserve accountability.https://t.co/YAHhdORKnN
— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) February 12, 2021
Similarly, Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY) called for the DOJ to conduct a “full investigation into the Cuomo Administration’s handling of nursing homes and COVID-19″:
Gov. Cuomo not only recklessly put New York seniors in harms’ way, he and his Administration admittedly hid the facts from the Department of Justice. This, along with the refusal to respect the several Freedom of Information Law requests, turned a misjudgment in policy into what very well made be one of the largest criminal cover-ups in New York’s history.
— Andrew Garbarino (@RepGarbarino) February 12, 2021
NYGOP Chairman Nick Langworthy also released a statement Friday, calling for prosecution and impeachment discussions “right away.”
“The second most powerful person in state government and top aide to Governor Cuomo admitted on video to the premeditated and willful violation of state laws and what clearly amounts to federal obstruction of justice,” Langworthy said, concluding that Cuomo “has abused his power and destroyed the trust placed in the office of governor.”
The news follows a January report from New York Attorney General Letitia James that found the New York State Department of Health’s (DOH) published nursing home data “may have been undercounted by as much as 50 percent.”
Cuomo did not apologize following the report but instead doubled down, telling reporters that New York had “a lower percentage of deaths in nursing homes than other states.”
“But we’re below the national average in number of deaths in nursing homes. But who cares?” he said. “Thirty-three [percent], 28 [percent], died in a hospital, died in a nursing home. They died.”
DeRosa, however, apologized to Democrats on the call.
“So we do apologize,” she said. “I do understand the position that you were put in. I know that it is not fair. It was not our intention to put you in that political position with the Republicans.”
Cuomo, author of American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic, has continued to champion his state’s response to the pandemic as members of the establishment media continue to heap praise on the blue state, which has had some of the strictest restrictions in the country.
A Breitbart News analysis of recent coronavirus data found that New York State tops Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) Florida in new cases, per capital and overall, in the last seven days. While Florida has a large senior population, DeSantis’s administration took action to protect seniors, barring hospitals from discharging coronavirus patients into nursing homes and long term care facilities. Cuomo’s administration did not. The New York State Department of Health estimated that “approximately 6,326 COVID-positive residents were admitted to facilities between March 25, 2020 and May 8, 2020.”