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Thursday, 18 February 2021

FBI and US Attorney in Brooklyn are investigating Gov. Cuomo and his COVID task force's handling of nursing homes during the pandemic after his cover-up of thousands of deaths was exposed

 The FBI and US Attorney's office in Brooklyn are investigating New York Governor Andrew Cuomo over a mounting potential scandal that his administration covered up coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes, according to a report Wednesday. 

Democrat Cuomo is under fire amid claims he purposely under-reported the COVID-19 death toll. 

The investigation - first reported by The Times Union - is said to be in its early stages; it is focusing on Cuomo's coronavirus task force, the paper notes. 


DailyMail.com has contacted the U.S. attorney's office in the Eastern District of New York for comment. The FBI said it had 'no comment'. Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said of the federal probe: 'As we publicly said, DOJ has been looking into this for months. We have been cooperating with them and we will continue to.'  

Officials are said to be looking into the governor's task force whose members include attorney Linda Lacewell, state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker and Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa. 

It was DeRosa who is said to have admitted the administration withheld data on the nursing home deaths from state lawmakers, fearing an official investigation from the federal government.

It is not known if any of Cuomo's team have been interviewed. Subpoenas have been issued, ABC reports.

But Cuomo had said this week: 'The New York state (Department of Health) has always fully and publicly reported all COVID deaths in nursing homes and hospitals. 

'They have always been fully reported. I don't think there's anything to clear here. … There is nothing to investigate.'

The FBI and US Attorney's office are investigating New York Governor Andrew Cuomo over the nursing home death scandal, according to reports Wednesday

The FBI and US Attorney's office are investigating New York Governor Andrew Cuomo over the nursing home death scandal, according to reports Wednesday

Even fellow Democrats in New York have slammed Cuomo for what they said was covering up deaths in nursing homes. They said those deaths came from Cuomo's decision to send COVID-19 patients back to their nursing homes from hospitals.

Cuomo said he followed expert guidelines at the time, as he said it was believed then that they were not infectious anymore.

Many families and New York state lawmakers though, say the decision added to the number of deaths - making nursing homes hotspots for coronavirus transmission. 

Yet Cuomo claimed on Monday that 98 percent of the care homes already had COVID-19 in their buildings before the sick patients were sent back there - and that he was not responsible. 

More than 15,000 people have died in New York state's nursing homes and long term care facilities from COVID-19, but as recently as last month, the state reported only 8,500 deaths.   

The numbers, while accounted for in the full state death totals to the state, were not ascribed to nursing homes for residents who died in hospitals rather than within the facilities. 


Last week Cuomo's top aide admitted that his administration had withheld data on the nursing home deaths from state lawmakers as they feared an official investigation from the federal government. Melissa DeRosa, pictured, allegedly said that they were worried Trump would turn the deaths 'into a giant political football'

Last week Cuomo's top aide admitted that his administration had withheld data on the nursing home deaths from state lawmakers as they feared an official investigation from the federal government. Melissa DeRosa, pictured, allegedly said that they were worried Trump would turn the deaths 'into a giant political football'

President Joe Biden, center right, and Vice President Kamala Harris, center left, meet with Governor Andrew Cuomo last Friday , to discuss the vital need to pass the American Rescue Plan, which will get more support to their communities and those on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19

President Joe Biden, center right, and Vice President Kamala Harris, center left, meet with Governor Andrew Cuomo last Friday , to discuss the vital need to pass the American Rescue Plan, which will get more support to their communities and those on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19

A report late last month from New York Attorney General Letitia James, a fellow Democrat, had examined the administration's failure to tally nursing home residents' deaths at hospitals.

The state then acknowledged the total number of long-term care residents' deaths is nearly 15,000, up from the 8,500 previously disclosed.

Next, a Freedom of Information request showed that more than 9,000 recovering coronavirus patients in New York were released from hospitals into nursing homes in the pandemic's early months. 

This was more than 40 percent higher than the state had said previously because it wasn't counting residents who returned from hospitals to homes where they already had lived.

It then emerged that Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa had told Democratic lawmakers that the tally of nursing home residents' deaths at hospitals was delayed because officials worried that the information was 'going to be used against us' by the DOJ, then under the Trump administration.

DeRosa allegedly said that they were worried Trump would turn the deaths 'into a giant political football'.  

Since then seven Democratic state assembly members have accused Cuomo of an 'intentional obstruction of justice'. In a letter they say that Cuomo attempted to circumvent a federal probe by delaying the release of a complete tally of deaths of nursing home residents. 

Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing although he apologized on Monday for not working to provide the information more quickly. 

Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker speaks during opening of vaccination site at Jacob Javits Center. To his right is Secretary of State Rossana Rosado and to his left is Director of Emergency Management Michael Kopy

Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker speaks during opening of vaccination site at Jacob Javits Center. To his right is Secretary of State Rossana Rosado and to his left is Director of Emergency Management Michael Kopy


New York assemblyman Ron Kim said Wednesday he was threatened by Cuomo, claiming the governor told him 'I can destroy you' if the assemblyman did not issue a positive statement regarding the nursing home cover-up scandal.

The Democrat claimed he received an angry phone call from Cuomo on Thursday after he was quoted in a New York Post article.  

On Wednesday, a senior Cuomo aide issued a statement accusing Kim of 'lying about his conversation with Governor Cuomo Thursday night'. 

Kim alleges that Cuomo shouted at him for 10 minutes and asked him 'are you an honorable man?' before the governor added that he 'hadn't seen his wrath and anger' before.

Cuomo appeared to make good on his alleged threat earlier on Wednesday as he criticized Kim during a press briefing and claimed that he and the assembly member had a 'long and hostile relationship'.

He also suggested that Kim was guilty of practices that were 'unethical if not illegal'. The governor claimed that the tension rose from a 2015 bill to reform nail salons that the Cuomo proposed, and Kim voted against. 

Kim, who represents the Queens district that was hardest hit at the height of the pandemic, told the Post that secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa's comments sounded like the governor was 'trying to dodge having any incriminating evidence'.

The assemblyman said he also called on Cuomo to apologize to family members of those who died in assisted living facilities during the call.  

Cuomo was allegedly angered by Kim's statement to the Post and made the call later that day in an effort to make him pull it back and issue a positive statement instead. 

Kim said the call amounted to the governor threatening to tarnish his reputation if he did not decide to publicly back Cuomo and say that he misheard DeRosa, according to the New York Times

'Gov. Cuomo called me directly on Thursday to threaten my career if I did not cover up for Melissa [DeRosa] and what she said. He tried to pressure me to issue a statement, and it was a very traumatizing experience,' Kim told CNN

'No man has ever spoken to me like that in my entire life,' he added. 

'At some point he tried to humiliate me, asking: "Are you a lawyer? I didn't think so. You're not a lawyer." It almost felt like in retrospect he was trying to bait me and anger me and say something inappropriate. I'm glad I didn't.'  

Kim's wife also told CNN that she had overheard fragments of the call, which took place as the assemblyman had been bathing his children. 

She said that she heard Cuomo ask 'who do you think you are?' and reference 'my wrath', and that he sounded 'loud' and 'angry' on the phone. 

'The governor threatened to destroy my life,' Kim allegedly told her once he had hung up.  

The assemblyman said that after the first phone call, Cuomo attempted to contact him on multiple occasions over the weekend using a 'No Caller ID' number. 

He said that Cuomo's aides also told him that the governor would like to speak to him again.

Kim said he did not return the calls but told CNN that he has since retained a lawyer as the call made him feel that the governor had asked him to lie about the potential cover-up. 

Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim (pictured) claims he was threatened by NY Governor Andrew Cuomo in a phonecall last week over the nursing home cover-up scandal

Kim believes that his uncle died from a presumed case of COVID in a nursing home last year


Three additional Democratic New York lawmakers told CNN anonymously that they had also heard and experienced an aggressive lobby from Cuomo and his aides in the past week, as his administration tries to negate the bad press he is receiving over the potential scandal. 

An adviser to Cuomo initially denied that the governor had threatened Kim. 

'Kim's assertion that the governor said he would "destroy him" is false,' senior adviser Rich Azzopardi told CNN. 

'The Governor has three witnesses to the conversation. The operable words were to the effect of, "I am from Queens, too, and people still expect honor and integrity in politics".'

Azzopardi also claimed that Kim had initially agreed to issue a new statement in the phone call and that the follow ups over the weekend were only because he had failed to do so. 

In a longer statement, Azzopardi claimed that he knew Kim is lying because 'I was once of the three people in the room when the phone call occurred'. 

He blasted the claims as 'part of a years-long pattern of lies by Mr. Kim against this administration'. 

'We will not allow an unscrupulous politician to deceive New Yorkers or distort the truth ... He is without credibility as his own word demonstrate. Lies have caused grieving families from COVID enough pain,' Azzopardi continued.  

Earlier that day, Cuomo had addressed the matter himself during a press briefing as he issued accusations of impropriety at the assemblyman. 

He accused the fifth-term assemblyman of a 'continuing racket' in accepting donations from nail salon owners. 

Cuomo claimed that Kim voted against the bill that he had helped craft after siding with the salon owners who were upset about the reform it would introduced. 

He suggested Kim engaged in 'pay to play' and said it was 'unethical if not illegal'. 

Cuomo noted a New York Times article from that year that examined financial contributions to Kim after he had changed his position on the salon reform bill. 

The governor appeared particularly angered during the briefing by a letter issued by Kim and six other Democratic state assembly members on Tuesday in which they accused Cuomo of an 'intentional obstruction of justice'. 

The letter said that Cuomo attempted to circumvent a federal probe by delaying the release of a complete tally of deaths of nursing home residents. 

Up until last month, the state had claimed that only 8,500 people had died in nursing homes. 

Yet these figures did not include deaths of nursing home residents who were hospitalized and then died in hospital. The state only released the full figure of 15,000 last month. 

Despite the criticism he received from Cuomo on Wednesday, Kim said that he stands '100%' behind his allegations about the threat and was disappointed by the suggestion that he had an ulterior political motive. 

'There's no undoing here. They have blood on their hands,' Kim said. 'We're talking about his record of performance in the last 10 months.' 

'Basically, I saw a crime and he’s asking me to say that I did not see that crime,' he added to the Times. 'I heard what I heard and I can’t lie.

'The governor can personally attack me all he wants in an effort to distract us from his incompetent management. But these facts are not going away because they are the facts and are unacceptable.' 

Several other lawmakers in New York have also fiercely criticized Cuomo, with some calling for his resignation.

In response to Cuomo’s protestations that claims he purposely misreported nursing home deaths are just a ‘conspiracy’, New York State Sen. Jessica Ramos tweeted: 'Trash. No one believes you.' 

NY Sen. Alessandra Biaggi added that she believed one of his press conferences earlier this week was 'riddled with lies'. 

The governor's comments did not satisfy a number of Democratic lawmakers including NY Sen. Alessandra Biaggi

The governor's comments did not satisfy a number of Democratic lawmakers including NY Sen. Alessandra Biaggi 

New York State Sen. Jessica Ramos tweeted: 'Trash'

New York State Sen. Jessica Ramos tweeted: 'Trash'

In his Monday press conference, Cuomo said he didn't cover up deaths but acknowledged that officials should have moved faster to release some information sought by lawmakers, the public and the press.

'All the deaths in the nursing homes and hospitals were always fully, publicly and accurately reported,' he claimed.

He explained the matter Monday as a difference of 'categorization,' with the state counting where deaths occurred and others seeking total deaths of nursing home residents, regardless of the location.

'We should have done a better job of providing as much information as we could as quickly as we could,' he said. 'No excuses: I accept responsibility for that.'

'We should not have created the void [of information]. We should have done a better job of providing information and knocking down conspiracy theories.

'We did not take enough action and the pain is it created confusion, cynicism and pain for the families of a loved one.'

Yet he refused to take any responsibility for any of the deaths in the state's nursing homes as he continued to blame a 'toxic political environment,' and 'disinformation' for much of the criticism surrounding his administration's handling of the issue.

Cuomo said the state was slow to respond to the lawmakers because officials prioritized dealing with requests from the Justice Department and were busy dealing with the work of the pandemic.

'It´s not like people were in the South of France,' he said.

'When we didn´t provide information, it allowed press, people, cynics, politicians, to fill the void,' he said, and 'it created confusion and cynicism and pain for the families.'

'The truth is: Everybody did everything they could.'

Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa (pictured left) reportedly said last week that Cuomo's administration had feared that the COVID-19 deaths in nursing home could 'be used against us' as the Justice Department investigates New York and three other states

Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa (pictured left) reportedly said last week that Cuomo's administration had feared that the COVID-19 deaths in nursing home could 'be used against us' as the Justice Department investigates New York and three other states


Cuomo will be standing for relection next year. 

On Tuesday, a survey released by Sienna College revealed that Cuomo still hold a good favorability rating among New Yorkers although his approval rating had dropped slightly in the past month. 

However, the poll was carried out before Post revealed DeRosa's comments last week. 

They did come after a report from Attorney General Letitia James' office and a court order forced the state to finally release the figures showing the true extent of COVID nursing home deaths was almost double what they had originally claimed. 

In the survey, New Yorkers failed Cuomo on his handling of the scandal. 

Both Democrats and Republicans in the state have been angered by Cuomo's administration and the delay in receiving the full figure of deaths after lawmakers had made a formal request for the information in August. 

Yet Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing although he apologized on Monday for not working to provide the information more quickly. 

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