https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/538575-top-cuomo-aide-apologized-to-democrats-saying-we-froze-in-withholding

A top aide to New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoMore than 9,000 COVID-19 patients were released to NY nursing homes: report New York state warns hospitals they must vaccinate staff before elderly: report The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by TikTok – New video of riot unnerves many senators MORE (D) has reportedly apologized in private to Democratic lawmakers for withholding the state’s nursing home death toll from coronavirus, saying they feared the startling real figures would be “used against us.”

According to a Thursday report from the New York Post, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa made the admission during a video conference call with state Democratic leaders.

She reportedly said that the Cuomo administration had ignored a legislative request to tally the death toll in August because it was “right around the same time, [then-President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpNRCC finance chair: Republicans who voted for Trump impeachment will not be penalized Blinken, UN head share first call after US rejoins Climate Accords, WHO GOP senators met with Trump’s impeachment team to talk strategy MORE] turns this into a giant political football.”

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“He starts tweeting that we killed everyone in nursing homes,” DeRosa said of Trump. “He starts going after [New Jersey Gov. Phil] Murphy (D), starts going after [California Gov. Gavin] Newsom (D), starts going after [Michigan Gov.] Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerMichigan Senate leader claims Capitol riot ‘wasn’t Trump people’ Whitmer wants attorneys in Michigan election challenge suit disbarred Michigan county prosecutor dismissing all charges related to violating Whitmer’s COVID-19 orders MORE (D).”

In audio of the two-hour call obtained by the outlet, DeRosa noted that Trump had directed the Justice Department to launch an investigation into the state.

“And basically, we froze,” she reportedly said. “Because then 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. That played a very large role into this.”

She offered an apology for the administration’s initial handling of nursing homes amid the pandemic. 

“So we do apologize,” DeRosa said. “I do understand the position that you were put in. I know that it is not fair. It was not our intention to put you in that political position with the Republicans.”

The contents of the call were confirmed by a source to CNN.

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In response to The New York Post story, Cuomo’s senior adviser Rich Azzopardi said in a statement that producing documents for the federal government was a “priority.”

“We explained that the Trump administration was in the midst of a politically motivated effort” to blame Democratic-led states for COVID-19 deaths, Azzopardi said, 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.”

Cuomo’s office faced fierce backlash from both sides of the aisle over the admission.

State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (D) wrote on Twitter: “You’re only sorry that you all got caught. Because of your decisions, thousands of people died who did not have to die. We’re not ‘offended’, Melissa, we’re furious – with extremely good reason.”

“Top legislative Democrats going behind closed doors with the Cuomo administration to discuss the nursing homes scandal is another stonewalling session that has nothing to do with revealing the truth, only with continuing to hide it,” wrote state Sen. Tom O’Mara (R). “What legislative Democrats need to do is to call for testimony and full records from Governor Cuomo and his inner circle, under subpoena, in public.”

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The call came one month after New York’s Attorney General Letitia James (D) released a report in late January that found Cuomo’s administration had undercounted the number of nursing home deaths by as much as 50 percent. 

The governor’s administration was reportedly obscuring the true count of nursing home deaths in the state by only counting residents who died on nursing home property and not those who were transferred to hospitals, which according to James’s report, was the majority.

More than 9,000 recovering COVID-19 patients in New York were released from hospitals into nursing homes during the early days of the pandemic, The Associated Press reported ThursdayThat figure is 40 percent higher than what had previously been released by the state’s health department. 

New York House GOP lawmakers earlier this month sent a letter to the Department of Justice requesting that it subpoena Cuomo over New York’s treatment of nursing homes during the pandemic. 

The charge was led by Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikMore than 9,000 COVID-19 patients were released to NY nursing homes: report Claudia Tenney wins New York House race NY Republicans want Justice Department to subpoena Cuomo over nursing homes MORE (R-N.Y.) and requested that the Justice Department subpoena “the Secretary to the Governor, the New York State Commissioner of Health and their staff on all documentation and communications related to their nursing home policies during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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