Gov. Andrew Cuomo applauded the end of the Department of Justice’s “cruel” investigation into nursing home deaths in four states, including New York.
During a press conference at Yankee Stadium on Monday, Cuomo alleged former President Donald Trump adopted the concept that “the Democratic governors caused deaths in nursing homes” as his “political narrative” at the expense of families who were grieving loved ones lost to COVID-19.
“The political environment has gotten so toxic in this country, so toxic, so mean,” he said. “It was an outrageous allegation.”
The governor, who said New York is “not even near the top” in terms of the number of nursing home deaths as a percentage of the state’s population, charged the Trump era investigation was “politically motivated.”
“Of course, this was political hyperbole, and of course, this fed into the politics of the time … but this kind of toxic politics is bad,” he continued.
Cuomo said the investigation, which “violated the basic concept of justice in this nation,” caused people to lose trust in the federal government, distracted from the real questions the government should have been asking regarding COVID-19’s transmission in nursing homes, and cruelly taunted those who lost loved ones who lived in nursing homes to COVID-19.
“To say to people who lost a loved one in a nursing home, ‘It could’ve been prevented. It was a mistake by government bureaucrats. That’s why your loved one died.’ How cruel. How cruel. … How mean to do to the families who lost a loved one in a nursing home,” he said.
On Friday, the Department of Justice announced it would not pursue an investigation into the nursing home policies in New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and Pennsylvania that critics say led to thousands of unnecessary deaths due to the transmission of COVID-19.
Trump, who was president at the time, asked the department to open the investigation in August 2020, alleging the Democratic governors of the four states enacted policies that allowed for COVID-19-positive patients to be readmitted into nursing homes, many of which were not prepared to handle coronavirus outbreaks.
On March 25, 2020, Cuomo signed an executive order shielding nursing homes from liability when admitting COVID-19-positive patients, a policy government watchdog group the Empire Center for Public Policy found was linked to over 1,000 additional resident deaths. Cuomo rescinded the nursing home policy on May 10, 2020.
While the announcement from the DOJ is welcome news for Cuomo, the New York Democrat still faces several scandals threatening his governorship.
The governor has been accused of directing state health officials to give special COVID-19 testing access to members of his inner circle. Richard Azzopardi, a senior Cuomo aide, denied those claims as “insincere efforts to rewrite the past” in an email to the Washington Examiner.
The alleged use of state resources in the promotion of Cuomo’s book, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic, has also attracted scrutiny from elected officials. In April, state Attorney General Letitia James received a referral to conduct a criminal investigation into Cuomo’s use of state resources to promote the book after a March 31 ethics complaint from a liberal watchdog group sought an inquiry into whether he violated a law prohibiting “the use of campaign funds for personal use.” Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli authorized James to examine “any indictable offense or offenses,” including “the drafting, editing, sale, and promotion of the governor’s book and any related financial or business transactions.”
The governor has also been accused of sexual harassment by at least 10 women, and the allegations have led to two investigations: James is looking into the matter on behalf of the executive branch, and New York state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie opened what he has termed an “impeachment investigation” in the Legislature. Cuomo and Azzopardi have spoken with officials from James’s office, suggesting her investigation is nearing its end.
Despite facing pressure from within his own party to resign, Cuomo has refused to step down, saying the accusations against him are false. He has signaled he plans to run for a fourth term, hosting a $10,000-per-person fundraiser last month at which he raised more than $1 million toward his reelection efforts.