Top New York Republicans and other state officials are calling for an investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo following a bombshell report that revealed his administration knowingly withheld the state’s nursing home coronavirus death toll in order to hinder a federal investigation.
The New York Post reported on Thursday that Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, apologized to Democratic lawmakers in a video conference call for covering up the true number of deaths in the state’s nursing homes.
DeRosa said Cuomo’s administration “froze” out of fear that federal prosecutors would use the coronavirus numbers “against us.”
“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.
In response, several New York political leaders demanded a federal probe into Cuomo, with some going so far as to call for Cuomo to be impeached and removed from office.
“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,” Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., said in a statement. “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.”
— Elise Stefanik (@EliseStefanik) February 12, 2021
Rep. Andrew Garbarino, R-N.Y., also demanded “answers and justice” through a “full investigation” by the U.S. Justice Department “into the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing homes and COVID-19.”
“Gov. Cuomo not only recklessly put New York seniors in harms’ way, he and his Administration admittedly hid the facts from the Department of Justice,” Garbarino added. “This, along with the refusal to respect the several Freedom of Information Law requests, turned a misjudgment in policy into what very well may be one of the largest criminal cover-ups in New York’s history.”
— Andrew Garbarino (@RepGarbarino) February 12, 2021
New York GOP Chairman Nick Langworth said Cuomo “abused his power and destroyed the trust placed in the office of governor. Prosecution and impeachment discussions must begin right away.”
Even Democrats condemned Cuomo, calling his leadership failures a “betrayal of public trust.”
Democratic state Sen. Andrew Goundardes said he would support a thorough investigation into Cuomo and urged the state legislature to “reconsider its broad grant of emergency powers to the governor.”
This is a betrayal of the public trust.
There needs to be full accountability for what happened, and the legislature needs to reconsider its broad grant of emergency powers to the governor. https://t.co/xmCZCygW7K
— Andrew Gounardes (@agounardes) February 12, 2021
Fourteen other Democratic state senators joined Goundardes in calling for the emergency powers granted to Cuomo amid the pandemic to be rescinded.
“It is clear that the expanded emergency powers granted to the governor are no longer appropriate,” the Democrats said in a statement.
At least one New York State lawmaker plans to ask the rest of the legislature to impeach Cuomo.
“We’ve been calling for subpoenas and a hearing for quite a while,” Republican New York Assemblyman Michael Montesano, a member of the state’s Oversight and Investigations Committee, told Fox News. “This news of the last several days is extremely troubling to me and I’m going to be asking today for his resignation and I’m also going to be asking the legislature to look into, to explore filing articles of impeachment against the governor if he doesn’t resign.”
In the wake of this criticism, Cuomo’s administration has tried to walk back its role in the nursing home cover-up. DeRosa, who originally admitted fault, tried to argue on Friday that Cuomo had been nothing but “comprehensive and transparent” with the federal government.
DeRosa said she was just trying to explain to the Democratic lawmakers “that when we received the DOJ inquiry, we needed to temporarily set aside the legislature’s request to deal with the federal request first.”
“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,” she said in a statement posted by Rich Azzopardi, a senior Cuomo adviser.
But DeRosa’s half-hearted explanation did little to quell criticism. Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., said on Friday that DeRosa deserves to go to prison for her role in the scandal.
“I’m going to be looking at filing a personal criminal complaint against this individual today in local law enforcement offices as well as federal offices because she needs to be arrested today,” Reed told Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo on Friday. “The days of Cuomo are going to be numbered in Albany here, but most important we need to start with the second-in-command.”