During a press briefing on Monday, Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo claimed a ‘toxic political environment’, which he blamed former President Trump for fostering, motivated the Department of Justice to launch an investigation into his state’s nursing home deaths and management of the pandemic.
“[Trump] said, ‘The Democratic governors caused deaths in nursing homes.’ That was his political narrative,” Cuomo said.
The original Justice Department probe into COVID fatalities in assisted living facilities focused on four Democratic-dominated states led by Democratic governors: New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. It stemmed from the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act of 1980 (CRIPA), which gives the department authority to file civil actions against states or agencies that purportedly deprive people of their civil rights.
The governor’s comments come after the department recently announced that it would drop the civil rights investigation which aimed to discover whether the Cuomo administration violated upon the rights of nursing home residents with its patient admission policy.
Cuomo questioned why his state’s pandemic response was scrutinized to begin with, touting its record for nursing home deaths that ranks 31 in the country and “not anywhere near the top,” he said.
“Why New York? Except that it was politically motivated,” he added. “Of course this was political hyperbole and of course this fed into the politics of the time…This kind of toxic politics is bad.”
Representative Steve Scalise (R., La.), ranking member of the House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, blasted the decision to drop the investigation, calling it “outrageous that the Department of Justice refuses to investigate the deadly ‘must admit’ orders issued by governors in New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan that resulted in the deaths of thousands of senior citizens.”
“These deadly orders contradicted the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] guidance, and needlessly endangered the most vulnerable among us to the deadly COVID-19 virus,” Scalise said.
Cuomo, on the other hand, said New York adhered to official health recommendations the whole time, contrary to Scalise’s assertion.
“The political environment has gotten so toxic in this country. It was an outrageous allegation. New York followed the CDC guidance. CDC is a federal agency that’s supposed to know what they’re talking about in terms of health,” Cuomo said regarding how his administration conducted COVID nursing home protocol.
The governor suggested it was ‘cruel’ to feed grieving families what he believes to be a fabricated story that New York government bureaucrats were responsible for their elderly relatives’ deaths.
“People lost trust in the system and in government. The Department of Justice is supposed to be the Department of Justice. It’s not supposed to be a political operation. It’s not supposed to be ‘you investigate political enemies’,” Cuomo commented.
The governor insisted that a fact-finding mission would clear him and his administration of all wrong doing in the nursing home fiasco.
“I’m very eager to get the facts to the people of this state. I think when they hear the actual facts of what happened, and how this situation has been handled, I think they’re going to be shocked. Because at the end of the day, the truth wins,” he said.
While the civil investigation has been dismissed, Cuomo still confronts many others, including a criminal probe into whether his administration intentionally covered up the true death toll resulting from his nursing home mandate. Cuomo also faces ongoing inquiries into a book deal he concluded during the pandemic, as well as sexual harassment claims.