New York Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo is under investigation by the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, as well as the FBI, for his administration’s decision to send recovering coronavirus patients into nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, local New York media reported Wednesday night.
According to the Albany Times-Union, the U.S. Attorney’s investigation is in its “early stages” but is focusing on Cuomo’s controversial nursing home policy, which may have resulted in thousands of deaths, many more than the Cuomo administration originally reported.
“The probe by the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York is apparently in its early stages and is focusing on the work of some of the senior members of the governor’s task force, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter who is not authorized to comment publicly,” the Times-United noted.
“Last March, as the virus began spreading in New York, Cuomo issued a news release listing the 13 initial members of his coronavirus task force, which has been headed by Linda Lacewell, an attorney and former chief of staff for Cuomo,” the outlet reported. “Lacewell is the superintendent of the state Department of Financial Services. Other task force members include state health Commissioner Howard Zucker, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa and Beth Garvey, counsel to the governor.”
The governor’s office acknowledged to the Times-Union that there is a Department of Justice investigation but insisted that there was no news to report on the subject.
“As we publicly said, DOJ (Department of Justice) has been looking into this for months,” Richard Azzopardi, one of Cuomo’s senior aides told the Times-Union. “We have been cooperating with them and we will continue to.”
“It’s unclear whether the federal probe by the office of acting U.S. Attorney Seth D. DuCharme is tied to two letters that Cuomo’s administration received from a civil division attorney at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., last year seeking information on the state’s nursing home policies and data,” the outlet added.
As one of its first orders of business, Cuomo’s office issued the order requiring nursing homes and other adult care facilities to take recovering coronavirus patients even if they continued to test positive for the virus. The Cuomo administration rescinded the order two months later, but not before hundreds, if not thousands, of potentially contagious COVID-19 patients were sent to nursing facilities, exposing thousands of vulnerable individuals to the deadly virus.
The policy has been controversial since the beginning, but mainstream media outlets largely ignored concerns until last week “when [Secretary to the Governor Melissa] DeRosa, in a closed-door meeting with key Democrats in the state Legislature with the authority to subpoena and investigate the governor’s administration,” allegedly “told the group that the administration had withheld information lawmakers had requested on nursing homes for months due to the Justice Department’s inquiry.”
“Basically, we froze 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 and what we start saying was going to be used against us and we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation,” DeRosa allegedly told lawmakers.
Cuomo himself tried to explain the situation last week, but refused to take responsibility or apologize for the situation.