Cuomo Notches Win After DOJ Drops Nursing Home Probe
(Bloomberg) -- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to drop an investigation into whether he mishandled Covid-19 outbreaks in nursing homes vindicated his administration and that he is “eager” for the results of other probes into his alleged misconduct.
The Justice Department on Friday said it wouldn’t investigate New York’s handling of coronavirus in its nursing homes, along with identical investigations into Pennsylvania and Michigan. Cuomo said the decision showed the probe, initiated under the Trump administration, was politically motivated.
“Of course this was political hyperbole and of course this fed into the politics of the time: ‘Democratic governors caused Covid, the president had nothing to do with it,’” Cuomo said at a press conference Monday in New York City. “It was toxic politics. It violated the basic concept of justice in this nation, and it did a lot of harm.”
The Cuomo administration did have to re-issue its nursing home death tally following a report released in January by Attorney General Letitia James that found that as much as 50% more nursing home residents died from Covid-19 than the New York State Department of Health’s published nursing home data reflected.
Critics have accused the governor of intentionally undercounting deaths to make the state look more successful and have accused the Cuomo administration of forcing nursing homes to take coronavirus patients from hospitals, which may have led to greater spread of the virus.
“As the pandemic and our investigations continue, it is imperative that we understand why the residents of nursing homes in New York unnecessarily suffered at such an alarming rate,” James said in the January report.
Cuomo on Monday said he had been following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on returning Covid patients to nursing homes and did not do anything wrong.
The three-term Democrat also said he was “very eager” to see a separate report by James’s office into other allegations of his misconduct, including multiple sexual harassment claims by government aides and the misuse of public resources to write a $5 million leadership book. The governor also faces an impeachment investigation by the state Assembly, which is looking into allegations he provided relatives with virus testing before it was widely available and mishandled the construction of the Mario Cuomo Bridge across the Hudson River. Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing.
“Let the process continue, let the facts come out,” Cuomo said. “When they hear the actual facts of this situation and how it has been handled I think they’re going to be shocked.”
Investigators working for the attorney general’s office were said to have interviewed Cuomo earlier this month. When asked whether New Yorkers should trust the Attorney General’s findings, the governor said on Monday that New Yorkers were “not naive” and “know what’s going on.”
Last week, Cuomo was warned against undermining the government investigations into his conduct after a top aide publicly accused the attorney general’s investigation of being politically motivated.
“It is obvious that attempts to demean the Attorney General serve as well to undermine the investigation and send profoundly negative signals to witnesses,” Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Lavine, wrote in a letter to Cuomo.
Lavine, who is heading the state assembly’s impeachment investigation, said Cuomo aide Rich Azzopardi violated instructions against interfering in the investigation. He pointed to a Twitter post by Azzopardi last week that claimed James intends to run for governor when Cuomo is up for re-election next year.
“It’s critically important to realize that any such comment may merit severe repercussions,” Lavine said.
James hasn’t said if she will run for governor, but her name has been floated as a viable contender. She dismissed similar comments in May as “personal attacks on me and my office” and said that “politics stops at the door. Anything other than that, obviously I ignore.”
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