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Biden's DOJ Unlikely to Punish Governor Cuomo Over Nursing Homes Death Toll Scandal, Journo Says

© AP Photo / John RocaNew York Gov. Andrew Cuomo briefs the media during a coronavirus news conference at his office in New York City, Saturday, May 9, 2020
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo briefs the media during a coronavirus news conference at his office in New York City, Saturday, May 9, 2020 - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.02.2021
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is likely to get away with misleading the public about nursing homes deaths amid the coronavirus pandemic and issuing COVID orders which may have led to the death of thousands of elderly residents, suggests American investigative journalist Jason Goodman.

On 11 February, The New York Post broke that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, privately told Democratic lawmakers that the state withheld its nursing home COVID-19 death toll out of fear that Donald Trump's DOJ would use it against them. About 15,000 long-term care home residents have died of COVID-19 in the state since the start of the pandemic, but up until recently just 8,500 deaths were disclosed.

'Gov. Cuomo Hid Data Amid DOJ Probe'

Following the bombshell disclosure, a group of New York Democrats reprimanded the governor and demanded that he be stripped of his emergency powers. While admitting some errors during his Monday press conference, Gov. Cuomo defended delaying the release of the data. The governor denounced cover-up allegations as "misinformation and conspiracy."

The developing scandal has raised questions about Cuomo's handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the state, says Jason Goodman, US investigative journalist and Crowdsource the Truth founder.

"Mr. Cuomo was given ample resources from the Federal Government including FEMA oversight, a massive conversion of New York City’s largest convention center into a triage hospital and the USNS Comfort hospital ship," the journalist said. "All of these resources could have been used to isolate the elderly infected patients from their healthy counterparts in state run homes. Instead, Mr. Cuomo ordered COVID-19 patients back to the nursing homes and now denies they were a source of infection".

Indeed, according to the New York Department of Health's mandate issued on 25 March 2020, "no resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the nursing home (NH) solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19." In addition to that, nursing homes were "prohibited from requiring a hospitalised resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission." Earlier, in February 2020, the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) released its comprehensive COVID research saying that elderly and the sick are most at risk.

​To complicate matters further, the New York authorities under-reported the fatality data amid DOJ's probe into COVID-related deaths among nursing home residents, Techno Fog, a nom de plume for a US lawyer, notes in his blog. On 26 August 2020 Trump's DOJ requested "COVID-19 data from the governors of states that issued orders which may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents," while on 28 October 2020 the Justice Department "ramped up inquiry into NY care home deaths," according to the Associated Press.  

Techno Fog argued that what Cuomo calls a delayed release of NH fatality rates was actually a cover-up which could potentially be qualified as a "conspiracy intended to mislead federal officials" (a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371) and "false statements under 18 USC § 1001."

Why NY Gov is Unlikely to be Prosecuted

"Whether the accusation results in consequences for Cuomo remains to be seen, but given his family’s dynastic political history and his repressible brother’s prominent role in national news media [CNN], any substantial punishment for the governor seems exceedingly unlikely," deems Goodman. "The wild card in this scenario is New York State Attorney General Letitia James. The aggressive AG has taken bold actions that some might say suggest she has her own political aspirations."

It was New York Attorney General Letitia James who revealed on 28 January 2021 that New York nursing home deaths "may be more than 50 percent higher" than the governor claimed.

At the same time, Goodman draws attention to the fact that the DOJ was investigating the NY's pandemic handling at care homes under the Civil Rights of Institutionalised Persons Act (CRIPA): "this was not a criminal investigation and did not pose the threat of any real punishment to the governor," the journalist underscores.

"It is extremely likely that the crack team at Biden's DOJ would do even less," the founder of Crowdsource the Truth presumes. "Not only is it probable that Mr. Cuomo will be treated with kid gloves, the Biden administration is likely to protect the Governor as evidenced by the incompetent president’s praise of Cuomo in his earliest days signing majestic decrees at the White House."

Meanwhile, Techno Fog suspects that the federal investigation into the matter has already been dropped by Joe Biden's DOJ. 

On 29 January, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated that any investigation on New York’s handling of COVID and its nursing homes "would be led by the Department of Justice."

However, on 11 February, The Post quoted DeRosa as saying that the DOJ is no longer looking at New York’s nursing home deaths and has "dropped" the investigation. “They never formally opened an investigation", the Cuomo aide told lawmakers during the 10 February Zoom call. "They sent a letter asking a number of questions and then we satisfied those questions and it appears that they’re gone."

​It appears that Cuomo deliberately delayed the release of mortality data until after the 2020 election, apparently expecting that the Biden administration would turn a blind eye to its political ally's mismanagement and drop the case, Techno Fog presumes in his blog.

Cuomo is 'Here to Stay' Despite Growing Scandal

Although thousands of nursing home residents may have died specifically because of Cuomo's COVID orders, it is likely that the governor will get away with it and will try to retain his seat in 2022, according to Jason Goodman.

Furthermore, it appears that Cuomo is in politics for the long haul, he notes, referring to the choice of the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (IATAS) to award Governor Cuomo an EMMY for his "masterful" coronavirus briefings, in which he vowed to deliver “the facts.”

​"Bestowing a television award on a sitting politician is a stunning and unprecedented event that should cause sensible readers to question the purpose," he notes, adding that "it amounts to a highly unusual endorsement of an active politician and likely future political candidate."

The corporate controlled press including his brother and CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, along with the EMMYs, have been running a public relations campaign for the governor, boosting his public profile and causing those who voted for Joe Biden to think that the "grave filling" governor is doing a good job, Goodman concludes. 

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