ALBANY, N.Y. (WWNY) - Governor Cuomo’s administration was not cooperative with federal prosecutors as they scrutinized the administration’s handling of nursing home data, the Associated Press reports.
Citing two people “familiar with the matter,” the AP reported “the Cuomo administration had not been cooperative with prosecutors, especially in the early stages of the probe, and for months had not produced documents and other data the Justice Department had requested.”
Cuomo has said his administration prioritized answering Justice Department requests for information last year as the reason for a long delay in providing state legislators and the public with accurate information about the number of nursing home patients in New York who died from COVID 19.
On August 26, 2020 federal prosecutors gave the Cuomo administration two weeks to provide information on nursing home deaths, and then asked for more information in October, the AP reported.
The AP also reported the investigation began in the Department of Justice Civil Division.
Earlier this week, the Albany Times-Union reported the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn were examining how Cuomo’s coronavirus task force handled nursing homes during the pandemic.
It’s not clear what connection - if any - last year’s Justice Department investigation and the recent U.S. Attorney’s investigation have.
Cuomo’s senior advisor Rich Azzopardi said Wednesday that it wasn’t true that the administration had withheld records from the Justice Department, though he acknowledged that some data requested in October had taken time to collect and produce.
“As we publicly said, DOJ has been looking into this for months. We have been cooperating with them and we will continue to,” Azzopardi said.
At issue is whether a Cuomo administration policy last spring of mandating nursing homes accept COVID positive patients caused the virus to spread, killing thousands of people unnecessarily, and whether Cuomo then concealed the true extent of the nursing home deaths.
After a scathing report from Attorney General Letitia James and a judge’s order, the state Department of Health revealed the real number of nursing home deaths from COCID was not less than 9,000 as had been claimed, but more than 13,000 - and 15,000 if other long term care institutions are figured in.
The political firestorm over the deaths prompted Republicans and some Democrats to demand Cuomo be stripped of his expanded powers to deal with the pandemic, and that he be investigated.
Cuomo, while acknowledging that he could have handled the issue better, has not apologized and has insisted that last spring’s policy of mandating nursing homes take COVID positive patients if they could care for them did not cause a spike in COVID deaths.
Cuomo has also said he is under political attack.
Over his long career, Cuomo has been known as a brutal political opponent to people who oppose his agenda or challenge him publicly.
That penchant for punching hard at perceived enemies drew fresh condemnations this week in the wake of a tirade by Cuomo against a lawmaker who questioned his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
A vocal crop of Democrats say the governor relies too often on threats to score wins.
A Cuomo spokesperson says voters know that “this is a governor who works night and day to move the ball down the field for New Yorkers.”