Representative Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.) said Monday that Merrick Garland’s response to a question about a potential conflict of interest in any investigation of New York governor Andrew Cuomo was “not good enough.”
During Garland’s confirmation hearing to be attorney general on Monday, Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) asked the Biden nominee if he would “commit to not having the investigation done by a person with a conflict of interest.”
Cruz noted acting Manhattan U.S. attorney Audrey Strauss’s relationship to Melissa DeRosa, a top Cuomo aide, as a potential concern. Strauss is the mother-in-law of DeRosa, who reportedly admitted recently that the administration covered up data on nursing-home deaths to hide the severity of the situation from federal authorities.
“With all of these investigations, the Justice Department is open to evidence of fraud, false statements, violations of the law,” Garland responded. “They normally begin in the appropriate way in the relevant U.S. Attorney’s office.”
“I don’t know any of the facts, but I can guarantee you somebody with a conflict of interest won’t be running an investigation of any kind,” he added.
Appearing on Fox News on Monday, Stefanik said the answer shows “he’s not reading the basic news.”
“As the American people are aware, this is a serious corruption scandal at the highest levels of New York State government,” she said. “We need a much clearer response from the nominee to be AG [committing to] making sure there is an independent apolitical, fair investigation. And when it comes to obstruction of justice, these are not just accusations Katie, this was caught on tape.”
She added: “It was caught on tape on a Zoom call with the members of the New York State Assembly, which is why it is Democrats as well who are speaking out about the need to have an independent federal investigation and also, some are proposing impeachment of the governor and the governor, I have said, should resign.”
Stefanik said the families of those who died in nursing homes “deserve a commitment from the AG nominee that this would be an independent investigation.”
“He’d better get up to speed quickly because that answer is not good enough for the American people,” she said.
Lawmakers of both parties have called for Cuomo to be stripped of the emergency powers granted to him last year at the beginning of the pandemic following DeRosa’s comments and a report issued by the New York attorney general Letitia James, which found that the state had undercounted nursing-home deaths by as much as 50 percent.
Cuomo last week blasted state lawmakers who have threatened to rescind his emergency powers and open investigations into his administration’s coverup of its mishandling of nursing-home coronavirus deaths.
“You can’t use a subpoena or the threat of investigation to leverage a person,” Cuomo said in a briefing. “That’s a crime, it’s called abuse of process, it’s called extortion.”