The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn are conducting an investigation into New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s coronavirus task force mishandling the pandemic. Cuomo and his team under-reported deaths in nursing homes and long-term care facilities in a bid to prevent political scrutiny. The investigation will examine the roles played by some of the senior members of the task force.
“As we publicly said, DOJ (Department of Justice) has been looking into this for months… We have been cooperating with them, and we will continue to,” Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for the governor, told Times Union.
He did not state which members of Cuomo’s team have been interviewed or served with subpoenas if any. According to a list released by Cuomo in March last year, there were 13 members in the task force. The team is headed by Cuomo’s former chief of staff, Linda Lacewell. Other members include Cuomo’s Secretary Melissa DeRosa, health commissioner Howard Zucker, and counsel to the governor Beth Garvey.
Cuomo and his team are under scrutiny for two pandemic time activities. One was an order issued last year that forced nursing homes to accept residents discharged from hospitals irrespective of whether they were infected or not. This order is said to have resulted in a high number of coronavirus fatalities in the state’s nursing homes, a charge dismissed by the Department of Health.
The second item under scrutiny is that Cuomo and his team under-reported deaths in New York nursing homes by as much as 50 percent, something that Secretary DeRosa personally confirmed.
Many prominent lawmakers have lashed out at Cuomo and are calling for appropriate punishment. Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez supports investigation into the matter, noting that the loved ones of thousands of New Yorkers who lost their lives in nursing homes during the pandemic deserve proper answers. Lawmakers in the state call for revoking the emergency powers granted to Cuomo amidst the viral outbreak.
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has asked President Biden to assign Antoinette Bacon, the acting U.S. Attorney in New York’s Northern District, to investigate the issue. He pointed out that Audrey Strauss, the U.S. attorney in New York’s Manhattan-based Southern District, should not be given powers to investigate since she is DeRosa’s mother-in-law.
Cuomo threatened retribution
Democrat Ron Kim recently came out with another charge against Cuomo – threatening political retribution. The assemblyman revealed that Cuomo had called him and threatened his career if he failed to cover up for DeRosa and her statements. Kim is calling for accountability from the Cuomo government. He has asked the governor to apologize for the deaths in the nursing home. He is also pushing forward a proposal that would repeal the immunity law that presently shields nursing homes from lawsuits.
“He tried to pressure me to issue a statement, and it was a very traumatizing experience… [Cuomo said] we’re in this business together and we don’t cross certain lines and he said I hadn’t seen his wrath and that he can destroy me… No man has ever spoken to me like that in my entire life… At some point he tried to humiliate me, asking: ‘Are you a lawyer? I didn’t think so. You’re not a lawyer.’ It almost felt like in retrospect he was trying to bait me and anger me and say something inappropriate. I’m glad I didn’t,” Kim told CNN.
Democrat activist and actor Alec Baldwin has highlighted the issue in a tweet and said that Cuomo has to resign if he did indeed threaten Ron Kim. Democrat Bill de Blasio, the Mayor of New York City, supports Kim’s claim, terming the governor’s threat “classic Andrew Cuomo.”