ALBANY, N.Y. (WWNY) - North country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik is calling for the prosecution of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and members of his inner circle for reportedly hiding data about nursing home COVID-19 deaths.
In a recording of a video conference obtained by the New York Post, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa reportedly told state Democratic legislators that the Cuomo administration covered up the data because of fear of a federal investigation.
DeRosa reportedly told lawmakers that the administration “froze” with indecision when then-President Donald Trump began targeting leaders of Democratic states for their nursing home deaths.
The newspaper says DeRosa apologized for withholding the numbers, which lawmakers had requested in August.
At about the same time, the U.S. Department of Justice requested information as part of its investigation.
In a statement Friday morning, DeRosa said that on the call with legislators, “I was explaining that when we received the DOJ inquiry, we needed to temporarily set aside the Legislature’s request to deal with the federal request first. We informed the houses of this at the time.
“We were comprehensive and transparent in our responses to the DOJ,” she said, “and then had to immediately focus our resources on the second wave and vaccine rollout. As I said on a call with legislators, we could not fulfill their request as quickly as anyone would have liked. But we are committed to being better partners going forward as we share the same goal of keeping New Yorkers as healthy as possible during the pandemic.”
Reacting to the newspaper report, Stefanik said, “this bombshell admission of a coverup and the remarks by the Secretary to the Governor indicating intent to obstruct any federal investigation is a stunning and criminal abuse of power.”
State Sen. Joe Griffo, who represents parts of the north country, is calling for an independent panel of district attorneys to investigate.
“There must be a genuine effort to uncover the truth,” Griffo said in a statement.
The controversy surrounds the way the state health department has reported deaths in nursing homes due to COVID-19.
For months, it reported only those deaths that happened in nursing homes, not those of residents who died in hospitals.
The state had reported about 9,000 nursing home deaths. Numbers released this week put the figure at around 15,000 for nursing homes and related facilities.
Here is Stefanik’s statement:
“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. This bombshell admission of a coverup and the remarks by the Secretary to the Governor indicating intent to obstruct any federal investigation is 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.
“Tomorrow, Governor Cuomo intends to meet with President Joe Biden. It is the responsibility of the President to ensure the 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.”
Here is Griffo’s statement:
“The news accounts that are being reported are troubling and disturbing, and again demonstrate the perils of one-party control of state government. During the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen the executive misrepresent and not present important, factual and real-time information and a refusal to distribute complete, accurate and needed data.
“Unfortunately, the majorities in the Legislature are being co-opted or complicit and are not willing to execute or interested in executing their constitutional responsibility for oversight, which is a complete abdication and dereliction of their duties.
“There must be a genuine effort to uncover the truth. Accordingly, I am recommending and urging that the Legislature create and appoint a four-member, bipartisan commission of District Attorneys from across the state who will be selected by the majorities (2) and the minorities (2) to conduct a thorough and independent investigation into this matter.”