Feds investigating Cuomo’s handling of nursing home outbreaks
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) office’s handling of coronavirus outbreaks in the state’s nursing homes is the subject of a federal investigation by the FBI and the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, the Albany Times-Union reported Wednesday.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York is probing unnamed senior members of Cuomo’s coronavirus task force, according to the newspaper, citing a person with direct knowledge of the matter.
Separately, Democratic state Senate leadership in New York is taking steps to remove Cuomo’s emergency powers bestowed at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, an atypical intraparty move against the governor amid increasing criticism on the nursing home issue.
State lawmakers have long discussed curtailing the governor’s powers but have perceived a political opening as the criticism mounts, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
“We need to remind them that state government is not one big branch: There’s three of them,” said state Sen. Gustavo Rivera (D), chairman of the state Senate Health Committee.
Leaders are readying a measure that would curtail Cuomo’s ability to override state laws and would empanel a commission of 10 people that would review any future law suspensions or pandemic-related orders by the governor’s office, according to the Times.
Last year, weeks after Cuomo announced the task force, New York’s health department announced that long-term care facilities in the state must accept residents who had been discharged from hospitals, even those who tested positive for the virus.
Attorney General Letitia James’s (D) office issued a report in January faulting the practice, which was ended after two months, for potentially increasing the infections in congregate settings. The report also said Cuomo’s administration delayed reporting thousands of additional nursing home resident deaths.
The report comes the same day Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) called on President Biden to assign acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York Antoinette Bacon to investigate the matter. Grassley noted that U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss is the mother-in-law of Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa.
While the Biden administration has asked all U.S. attorneys appointed by the Trump administration to resign, as is standard when the White House changes political parties, the resignations so far do not impact U.S. attorneys serving in an acting capacity such as Bacon. The Northern District does not appear to be involved in the investigation reported by the Times-Union.
Cuomo declined to apologize for his office’s handling of the nursing home data earlier this week, saying only that his administration had created a “void” that “press, people, cynics [and] politicians” were able to fill.
“As we publicly said, [the Department of Justice] has been looking into this for months,” Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Cuomo’s office, told The Hill. “We have been cooperating with them and we will continue to.”
Updated 9:49 p.m.