Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, appeared sheepish on Friday as he and other governors joined Joe Biden in the Oval Office to discuss COVID relief, amid mounting calls for Cuomo to be prosecuted.
Cuomo’s administration has been rocked by the confession on Thursday of his top aide, Melissa DeRosa, that they deliberately hid data on nursing home COVID deaths, in the midst of a Justice Department investigation into their handling of the pandemic.
Cuomo on Friday did not take questions about the growing scandal.
The New Yorker, who heads the National Governor’s Association, instead praised the president in a statement released after the Oval Office meeting, saying Biden and his team ‘made clear that they recognize and appreciate how critical this targeted relief is for our ability to recover from this pandemic.’
White House press secretary Jen Psaki would not say on Friday whether Biden has lost confidence in Cuomo given the growing criticism.
Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, was in the Oval Office on Friday to discuss COVID relief
The only public event on Cuomo’s schedule on Friday was a meeting with President Joe Biden and others at the White House on Friday. Pictured, left to right: Cuomo, Vice President Kamala Harris, Biden and Gov Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM)
A nursing home patient is seen receiving the COVID vaccine on January 6 in Brooklyn
‘The president hosted Gov. Cuomo and a bipartisan group of governors and mayors today to get their perspectives from the front lines – not to give anyone a stamp of approval or to seek their stamp of approval, and to discuss the urgency of passing the American Rescue Plan,’ Psaki said.
‘Gov. Cuomo is the governor of one of the largest states in the country – one of the places where the pandemic hit hardest, the earliest.
‘There are still many Americans continuing to struggle to get vaccinated and make ends meet, so it was important to have him as part of the meeting,’ she added.
The meeting came as the New York State Assembly Majority is considering rescinding emergency powers granted to Cuomo to manage the coronavirus pandemic after a top aide admitted their administration hid damning information about deaths among nursing home patients, according to a report from NY1.
In a remarkable confession made during a conference call with state Democrats, obtained by The New York Post, DeRosa, secretary to Cuomo, admitted that officials ‘froze’ in August when former President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice asked for the data, before rebuffing the request.
DeRosa told lawmakers: ‘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.’
The data remained secret for months until January, when a shocking report from New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office said the state had undercounted the number of nursing home deaths by as much as 50 percent.
It comes after Melissa de Rosa (left), a top aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo (right) admitted the administration had hidden nursing home COVID-related death numbers in a Thursday call, obtained by New York Post
New York State Assembly is holding a conference to consider rescinding Governor Andrew Cuomo’s emergency powers to manage the coronavirus pandemic. Pictured: A tweet by Zack Fink, an NY1 reporter who first broke the news about the discussion to rescind powers
It forced New York State’s Department of Health to reveal that the true death toll among nursing home residents was 12,743, rather than the previously acknowledged 8,711.
New York had previously only counted residents who died in nursing homes, and left out 4,000 residents who were taken to hospital and died there.
A conference is expected to be held discussing rescinding Cuomo’s emergency powers – which granted him the authority to suspend existing statutes or effectively create new laws – a new report states.
WHAT ARE CUOMO’S EMERGENCY POWERS AND HOW CAN THEY BE RESCINDED?
In March 2020, the New York State Legislature granted Cuomo emergency powers to address the coronavirus pandemic.
This effectively allows the governor to change any local or state law with the stroke of a pen.
He has issued 94 such executive orders including including limiting gatherings in public and private spaces closing or reopening businesses, mask mandates and expanding hospital capacity.
Cuomo has also issued orders indirectly related such as making a second wedding license available for free if the first one expired.
The executive powers are set to expire on April 30, but the New York State Legislature has the power to revoke these powers before the deadline with a simple majority in both houses.
There are 150 members in the Assembly so a simple majority would entail 76 members voting to rescind or 75 members and a tie-breaking casting vote by the Lieutenant Governor.
In the Senate, there are 63 members so they would need 32 Senators for a simple majority.
If the powers were to be rescinded it would mean Cuomo would no longer have the power to suspend existing statutes or effectively create new laws, all of which would now be done by the Legislature.
Allegedly a growing number of Democrats are joining Republicans’ calls for a revocation, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
On Friday, 14 Democratic New York State Senators joined Republicans in calling for Cuomo’s pandemic emergency powers to be rescinded.
‘Without exception, the New York State Constitution calls for the Legislature to govern as a co-equal branch of government,’ they wrote.
‘While COVID-19 has tested the limits of our people and the state – and early during the pandemic, required the government to restructure decision making to render rapid, necessary public health judgement – it is clear that the expanded emergency powers granted to the Governor are no longer appropriate.
‘While the executive’s authority to issue directives is set to expire April 30, we urge the Senate to advance and adopt a repeal as expeditiously as possible.’
Neither Cuomo’s office nor the Senate Majority Leader’s office nor the New York State Assembly office have returned DailyMail.com’s request for comment.
Cuomo has not yet issued a statement acknowledging DeRosa’s bombshell admission, but was seen at a morning meeting with Biden and other leaders at the White House to discuss a coronavirus relief package.
In March 2020, the state legislature granted Cuomo emergency powers to address the coronavirus pandemic, effectively allowing the governor to change any local or state law with the stroke of a pen.
As of last week, Cuomo has issued at least 94 executive orders, according to WGRZ.
Examples include limiting gatherings in public and private spaces, closing or reopening businesses, mask mandates and expanding hospital capacity.
There were also executives orders indirectly related to the pandemic, such as making people at a bar also order food, postponing church elections, making a second wedding license available for free if the first one expired, and waiving performance reviews for public school teachers.
The executive powers are set to expire on April 30, but the New York State Legislature has the power to revoke these powers before the deadline.
If so, it means Cuomo would no longer have the power to suspend existing statutes or effectively create new laws, all of which would now be done by the Legislature.
A simple majority is needed in both houses, the Assembly and the Senate, for the powers to be rescinded.
There are 150 members in the Assembly so a simple majority would entail 76 members voting to rescind or 75 members and a tie-breaking casting vote by the Lieutenant Governor.
In the Senate, there are 63 members so there would need to be 32 Senators voting to rescind a simple majority.
On Friday, Majority Leader Sen Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat, released a statement slamming Cuomo and stated that the ‘next steps’ would be discussed at a conference.
‘Crucial information should never be withheld from entities that are empowered to pursue oversight,’ Stewart-Cousins wrote.
‘This was always about getting the truth and allowing information to guide our response. That is why we had multiple hearings and another hearing scheduled for this month. And why we requested this information in the first place.
‘Politics should not be part of this tragic pandemic and our response to it must be led by policy, not politics. As always, we will be discussing next steps at a conference.’
Cuomo’s emergency powers are set to expire on April 30, but a simple majority is needed in both houses, the Assembly and the Senate, for the powers to be rescinded ahead of the deadline. Pictured: Cuomo during a press conference on February 8
In a statement on Friday, DeRosa said the administration had been transparent and that she told state legislators their request for information on nursing home COVID-19 deaths was set aside to deal with federal request.
‘We informed the houses of this at the time. We were comprehensive and transparent in our responses to the DOJ, and then had to immediately focus our resources on the second wave and vaccine rollout,’ she said.
‘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.’
On Friday, 14 Democratic New York State Senators joined Republicans in calling for Cuomo’s pandemic emergency powers to be rescinded
Democrats had asked for the exact figures for nursing home deaths from COVID since March 1 but DeRosa, secretary to the governor, said that at the same time the Trump administration was investigating. Pictured: A medic from Empress EMS loads a suspected COVID-19 patient from the Regency Extended Care Center into an ambulance in Yonkers, New York, April 7
A March 25 directive from Cuomo ordered nursing homes to accept thousands of COVID-positive patients when they were discharged from hospital – potentially spreading sickness and death among residents, a charge the state disputes.
DeRosa’s shocking admission came shortly before the Associated Press revealed that more than 9,000 patients were sent back to nursing homes – a figure 40 percent higher than official data.
Neither Cuomo nor his office have issued a statement acknowledging DeRosa’s bombshell admission, despite calls from local lawmakers for a public apology.
In a separate statement, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (pictured) slammed the governor and sad another hearing is scheduled this month for next steps to take against his office
Meanwhile calls continue to mount to prosecute Cuomo.
Republican New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik said Thursday’s revelations of a cover up showed a ‘stunning and criminal abuse of power’, and led demands for prosecution.
New York Assemblyman Ron Kim, a Democrat from Queens who was on the Thursday call, whose uncle died in a nursing home in April and is presumed to have had COVID-19, said DeRosa’s apology was unsatisfying.
‘It’s not enough how contrite they are with us,’ he told the Post.
‘They need to show that to the public and the families — and they haven’t done that.’
In the call on Thursday, DeRosa admitted they deliberately hid the data from state legislators, after the Trump administration began asking questions.
The Department of Justice announced it had opened an investigation on August 26 into ‘governors of states that issued orders which may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents’.
She said state Democrats asked for the data in August, ‘right around the same time, [then-President Donald Trump] turns this into a giant political football.’
DeRosa added: ‘He starts tweeting that we killed everyone in nursing homes.’
‘He starts going after [New Jersey Gov. Phil] Murphy, starts going after [California Gov. Gavin] Newsom, starts going after [Michigan Gov.] Gretchen Whitmer.’
Trump, also, she said, ‘directs the Department of Justice to do an investigation into us.’
‘And basically, we froze.
‘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.’
DeRosa then asked for ‘a little bit of appreciation of the context’.
She then offered the Democrat lawmakers an apology for the ‘political position’ that Cuomo’s order put them in.
She told the officials: ‘We do apologize. 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.’
New York State was the the worst hit by the initial surge in COVID in April 2020, which saw New York City become the global epicenter for the virus
Hundreds of New Yorkers died a day during the spring peak of the state’s coronavirus crisis, when the Cuomo administration hid data on how many of those deaths occurred in nursing homes
Rich Azzopardi, a senior Cuomo advisor, desperately tried to limit the damage caused by DeRosa Thursday night.
He tweeted: ‘We explained that the Trump administration was in the midst of a politically motivated effort to blame Democratic states for COVID deaths, 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.’
Cuomo’s March order forced nursing homes to readmit COVID-positive patients due to concerns about space in hospitals – despite fears of how the virus would spread among the vulnerable elderly.
‘No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to [a nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19,’ the ruling stated.
‘[Nursing homes] are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.’
He later reversed the ruling, on May 10, barring nursing homes from accepting COVID-19 patients without a negative test first.
On Thursday, AP revealed that 9,056 recovering patients were sent to hundreds of nursing homes under Cuomo’s directive – more than 40% higher than what the state health department previously released.
State health officials contend that asymptomatic nursing home employees, not recovering COVID-19 patients, were the driving factor in nursing home outbreaks.
Critics insist that his policy cost thousands of lives.
Despite criticism of his handling of the pandemic, Cuomo released a book detailing what he claims are his victories, and also won an Emmy for his daily TV briefings.
Cuomo has been repeatedly asked for more details about the nursing home scandal for months, but has dodged the questions.
The governor was blasted in January after responding to the controversy by asking ‘who cares’ where the residents died, in ill-advised comments that enraged grieving relatives.
He said it did not matter if a COVID death was counted in a nursing home or hospital.
Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, is facing calls to resign over his handling of the crisis
‘Whether a person died in a hospital or died in a nursing home, it’s…people died. People died,’ he said.
”I was in a hospital I got transferred to a nursing home,” he continued.
Cuomo released a book about his handling of the pandemic and he also won an Emmy for his daily TV briefings
‘New York is under the national average for nursing home deaths.
‘But who cares 33 [died in a hospital], 28 [died in a nursing home.] They died.’
He was immediately slammed as ‘disgusting’, ‘callous’ and ‘gutless’ by people whose loved ones died in nursing homes.
On February 3, a New York state Supreme Court judge, Justice Kimberly O’Connor, ruled that Cuomo has five business days to respond to a FOIL request to release data on COVID-19 in nursing homes.
The lawsuit was filed by Senator Jim Tedisco and the Empire Center for Public Policy, and O’Connor in her ruling was critical of the Department of Health for stalling on reporting nursing home data for several months.
The latest revelations that the Cuomo administration hid the damning data was met with outrage from politicians of both parties, as well as relatives of nursing home COVID victims.
Elsie Stefanik, a Republican representing New York in the House, said Cuomo must be ‘prosecuted immediately’.
‘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,’ she said.
On Friday, New York State’s Department of Health reported an additional 8,404 new COVID-19 cases
DeRosa admitted in the Thursday call that, in the spotlight, the Cuomo government ‘froze’
Stefanik added: ‘I have said from the beginning that this is more than a nursing home scandal, this is a massive corruption and coverup scandal at the highest level of New York State Government implicating the Governor, the Secretary to the Governor, the New York State Health Commissioner and the Governor’s staff.
‘The families who lost loved ones, New Yorkers, and all Americans deserve accountability from the U.S. Department of Justice that will be independent and not swayed by the desperate political pressure from Governor Cuomo.’
NY Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, a Republican, tweeted: ‘Governor Cuomo and his administration must be investigated from top to bottom and he must be stripped of his emergency powers. Justice needs to be brought for the grieving families who have been ignored to protect Governor Cuomo and his Democrat allies in the Legislature.’
Democrats also turned on the governor. Jumaane Williams, the Public Advocate for New York City, tweeted: ‘To continual defenders of @NYGovCuomo, how is this ok? How is it not #Trump like?
‘And when FORCED into admission, the most you get is a sorry we got caught…and not even directly from him or to the families. All while asking NYers to trust your decisions.’
Another Democrat, state senator Alessandra Biaggi, tweeted: ‘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.’
Janice Dean, senior meteorologist for Fox News, described Thursday’s report as ‘the biggest bombshell we have had so far’
Cuomo’s pandemic: A timeline of the governor’s response to the COVID-19 crisis
MARCH 1: Female nurse, 39, returning from Iran becomes the first in New York to test positive for COVID-19.
MARCH 2: Cuomo gives the first of 111 consecutive daily televised briefings for New Yorkers
MARCH 13: Donald Trump declares national emergency.
MARCH 14: An 82-year-old woman with emphysema is announced as the first patient to die from the virus.
MARCH 17: New York City mayor Bill de Blasio says city should follow San Francisco with a shelter-in-place order; Cuomo says it will be statewide.
MARCH 19: California Governor Gavin Newsom issues first statewide lockdown order
MARCH 22: Cuomo signs statewide stay-at-home order.
MARCH 25: Cuomo orders that nursing homes accept convalescent COVID patients back into their facilities.
MAY 10: The nursing home ruling is reversed, to insist on a negative COVID test before return to a nursing home. By now, more than 9,000 people have returned to nursing homes.
AUGUST: Questions begin to be asked about the nursing home policy.
AUGUST 26: Department of Justice opens an investigation into New York’s nursing homes and COVID policy.
OCTOBER 13: Cuomo publishes American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.
OCTOBER 21: Cuomo announced a policy of isolating identified ‘micro clusters’ of COVID cases.
NOVEMBER 20: Cuomo wins an Emmy ‘in recognition of his leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic and his masterful use of television to inform and calm people around the world’.
JANUARY 28: Attorney General Letitia James released a report finding that New York under-reported the number of deaths among nursing home patients by around 50 per cent, with 15,000 actually dying – not the 8,500 reported.
FEBRUARY 11: Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s secretary, admits that in August they ‘froze’ when asked for nursing home data, and dragged their heels on releasing it. The AP reports that more than 9,000 people were returned to nursing homes to recover from COVID in the period March 25-May 10, a figure 40 per cent higher than the official tally.
Janice Dean, a senior meteorologist for Fox News, who lost her mother-in-law and father-in-law in a New York nursing home, slammed the governor over the report.
‘There has to be some accountability, some investigation, one that is bipartisan, one that involves subpoena and tells the whole truth and nothing but the truth,’ she told DailyMail.com.
‘We don’t have the whole scope of how bad it is
‘If it is proven this governor has been corrupt and this criminal, he should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.’
Dean said she believes Cuomo should resign but not until he faces consequences.
‘I think he should resign but I don’t want him to get off easy.’
Both of Dean’s in-laws, Michael and Dolores Newman, passed away in a nursing home during the pandemic.
She said she hopes an investigation will bring justice to her on-laws and the countless others who lost loved ones.
‘Maybe, we needs an investigation and it needs to be by the highest courts in the land,’ she said.
‘It’s not going to bring my relatives back, but I hope justice prevails.
‘I’m trying to seek some kind of justice for them and thousands of other families so this doesn’t happen again’
GOP congresswoman and Trump loyalist Marjorie Taylor Greene was also quick to comment, blasting: ‘Andrew Cuomo has blood on his hands. The Cuomo Coverup led to needless deaths of New Yorkers everyone knew were at risk. And Fredo and CNN helped him hide it while laughing about it!’
Steve Scalise, the Republican House whip, tweeted: ‘There it is. Cuomo’s aide just admitted to covering up nursing home data so federal prosecutors couldn’t find it. Time for federal investigations. Time for prosecutions. Time for JUSTICE.’
He added: ‘The more the truth comes out, the worse it gets for Cuomo.’
Matt Vespa, a senior editor at TownHall.com, called for an urgent investigation.
‘With Biden now president, Cuomo’s people admit what many have already suspected: they intentionally hid the real COVID death toll from nursing homes in a massive cover-up that warrants a federal investigation,’ he said.
‘Biden DOJ should look into this…if they care about law and order.’
And Buck Sexton, a conservative commentator and podcast host, said: ‘Imagine for a moment that a Republican governor- by executive order- sent 9,000 seniors with covid back into nursing homes, causing massive casualties
‘But Cuomo is part of the lib establishment, so they allowed him to cover this up as long as they could.’
Tim Scott, the Republican senator for South Carolina, said: ‘This is unacceptable, & those involved must be held accountable.’
Commentator and podcast host Stephen Miller said: ‘If Cuomo purposely hid nursing home data as his aide claims, it’s not just impeachable, it’s criminal.’
Many agreed, with one man tweeting: ‘Gov Cuomo and all his advisors should be criminally charged and sued by nursing home operators and family members of those who succumbed to COVID in these facilities.’
Another said: ‘I’m at a loss for words. If they don’t resign immediately, it’s time for a recall!!!’
READ THE TRANSCRIPT OF MELISSA DEROSA’S ZOOM CALL WITH STATE DEMOCRATS
Senator Skoufis: Commissioner, I’m speaking more generally than just that one question. The Senate letter that we sent had, I think, 17 questions. I think there was an Assembly letter with many questions. So, yes, there is a question of what the data and the audit, and you’re not going to convince me that you could not have done this audit faster than 6 months’ time. I believe you started the audit a few weeks ago when this all started to bubble over. But I’m speaking more generally than just the nursing home death question.
Melissa DeRosa: Senator, I can take this question. I don’t know that this is going to satisfy you, but it’s the truth and the truth works almost every time. The letter comes in at the end of August and right around the same time, President Trump turns this into a giant political football. He starts tweeting that we killed everyone in nursing homes, he starts going after Murphy, starts going after Newsom, starts going after Gretchen Whitmer.
He directs the Department of Justice to do an investigation into us. He finds one person at DOJ, who since has been fired because this person is now known to be a political hack, who sends letters out to all of these different governors. And basically, we froze, 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. We went to the leaders and we said to the leaders, can we please pause on getting back to everybody until we get through this period and we know what’s what with the DOJ. We since have come through that period. All signs point to, they are not looking at this. They dropped it. They never formally opened an investigation. They sent a letter asking a number of questions and then we satisfied those questions and it appears that they’re gone. But that was how it was happening back in August.
In the intervening period, the second wave happened. The vaccine rollout started and all of our attention shifted elsewhere. And I know that’s not the answer you want to hear and you guys should be the only priority that we have as we’re moving through this –
Senator Skoufis: I’m not suggesting that —
Melissa DeRosa: No, no, no – I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that to be snarky. I’m saying this sincerely – and I’ve communicated this to Shontell and Louann – I want to make you guys more a partnership. I want to answer your questions on a rolling basis. I offered to do something weekly or bi-weekly so you guys get questions on a more often time and we can have a candid conversation where it doesn’t feel like everyone is sniping at each other through the press and it isn’t really about the policy and it isn’t really about the information, it’s about this political back and forth.
So, that is what happened. On the audit, I mean, now that I am knee deep in this and I understand all of this. On April 17, and we don’t need to get too far on a tangent, but just so you guys understand part of all this. On April 17, DOH sent out a notification to all of the nursing homes it regulates and says prospectively, tell us anyone that died in the facility, anyone you think died of COVID in the facility – like presumed, but presumed has a medical context and definition – but just saying presumed. And the nursing homes took that to mean I’m going to look backward and guess, essentially, that you believe was confirmed COVID in a hospital and that you think was presumed in a hospital.
All of a sudden, at the end of April, you get a massive data dump from 600 nursing homes where they’re reporting back to January and saying presumed COVID. And DOH, in the middle of what was still the height of the pandemic, while we were scrambling on a daily basis to make sure that hospitals weren’t overwhelmed and collapsing, when we were trying to make sure that people were getting the care that they needed, when we were still making major decisions about what sectors of the economy would be safe to reopen or close, when there was still massive PPE shortages and while we were being shot at on a daily basis from Donald Trump – that we needed to go through these reams of data. It’s 14,000 people. Then it wasn’t 14,000, it was like 6,000 or whatever the number was.
And none of it was reliable. It was based on initials. It was based on the data that they thought they died in the hospital because they didn’t know for sure. It was based on co-morbidities that the list of the co-morbidities are pneumonia, cancer, HIV/AIDS – all these things and they’re guessing that because it was around that time, maybe it was COVID. This was a massive undertaking and it was happening while we were still at the height of the pandemic. That’s when that data dump happened.
So, I’m just asking for a little bit of appreciation of the context. Your point is very well taken, Senator, and we are going to do better and you have my promise that we’re going to try to do better on a rolling basis, ongoing basis, to answer you guys. If it means Shontell or Louann arrange one-offs or Zooms or phone calls or weekly meetings, or whatever – I’m open to it.
So, we do apologize. I do understand the position that you were put in. I know that it is not fair. It was not our intent to put you in that political position with the Republicans.