A top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed perhaps, the governors most incriminating secret, which could bring his political career to an abrupt halt.
Cuomo’s aide revealed to leading state Democratic lawmakers that the administration had withheld data on COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes to avoid scrutiny from President Trump and the rest of the federal government.
The revelation prompted condemnations and even talk of impeachment in Albany, the state’s capital. Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin wants the Department of Justice to open an obstruction of justice investigation.
“The families of thousands of dead New York seniors deserve accountability and justice for the true consequences of Governor Cuomo’s fatally flawed nursing home policy and the continued attempts to cover it up. It’s clear what’s happening here is criminal,” he said.
The New York Post first reported that Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s secretary, said to top Dems within the state that the governor kept the data secret because he feared the data could “be used against [them]” by the Justice Department.
The DOJ began investigating nursing home coronavirus deaths in four states back in August – and New York was one of them.
“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,” DeRosa told the lawmakers, according to the Post report.
Rich Azzopardi, a senior Cuomo adviser, attempted to redirect some of the blame onto the Trump administration, who was looking to save lives by holding states responsible for their horrid COVID-19 responses.
“We explained that the Trump administration was in the midst of a politically motivated effort to blame Democratic states for COVID deaths,” he said Thursday evening.
“And that we were cooperating with federal document productions — and that was the priority. And now that it is over, we can address the state Legislature. That said, we were working simultaneously to complete the audit of information they were asking for.”
News of the call sparked outrage among state Republicans and other critics of Cuomo’s conduct already incensed over his March 25 directive that ordered thousands of virus-infected seniors back into assisted-living facilities, nursing homes and other long-term care locations.
“The second most powerful person in state government and top aide to Gov. Cuomo admitted on video to the premeditated and willful violation of state laws and what clearly amounts to federal obstruction of justice,” said state GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy.
“Andrew Cuomo has abused his power and destroyed the trust placed in the office of governor. Prosecution and impeachment discussions must begin right away.”
Freedom of information data released Wednesday revealed that the nursing home death toll was far higher than previously reported. And those numbers emerged just two weeks after the state’s attorney general found that numbers released before the end of January were also underreported.
“It seems every decision coming out of the governor’s office is about Team Cuomo protecting its own image and own interests,” state Assemblyman William Barclay, the chamber’s Republican leader said on Thurday. “More than 15,000 seniors died in adult-care facilities, but the governor was clearly more worried about a DOJ investigation and political finger-pointing.”
Even Democratic lawmakers pushed back against the administration’s excuses.
“In a pandemic, when you want the public to trust the public health officials, and there is this clear feeling that they’re not…being forthcoming with you, that is really hard,” state Sen. Rachel May said.