Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York. Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York is taking heavy criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.
A leaked video call from his top aide showed his administration was withholding key COVID-19 data.
The aide, Melissa DeRosa, explained her remarks, and the governor’s office released a transcript.
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York is under pressure from both sides of the aisle following a leaked call from his top aide about COVID-19 nursing-home deaths.
Melissa DeRosa, the secretary to the governor and widely considered to be one of the most powerful New York state officials, told lawmakers on a video call Wednesday that the administration withheld additional death totals while facing both federal and state inquiries. The New York Post reported details of the call Thursday night.
Both Democrats and Republicans are calling for Cuomo to be stripped of his pandemic emergency powers in response to the call, with some going further to demand investigations and even the governor’s resignation.
Cuomo was already facing criticism after a report from his own attorney general accused his administration of undercounting nursing-home deaths. New York Attorney General Tish James said the Cuomo administration undercounted the deaths by specifically by omitting those who likely contracted the virus in a nursing home but died in a hospital.
The outpouring of condemnations amounts to the most significant pressure Cuomo has faced in his political career – even beyond a series of ethics concerns around the Joint Commission on Public Ethics and the scrapped Moreland Commission – with 14 Democratic state senators calling for his emergency powers to be taken away by the Legislature.
The governor’s office released a transcript of the call on Friday morning.
DeRosa said in the call that the governor’s office was hanging on to the numbers because she wasn’t sure if they’d be used against the administration if there was an investigation.
The key passage from the transcript comes after DeRosa was asked by a state senator why the governor’s office was taking so long to release an audit of the nursing-home death numbers:
DeRosa also released a statement accompanying the transcript.
“I was explaining that when we received the DOJ inquiry, we needed to temporarily set aside the Legislature’s request to deal with the federal request first,” DeRosa wrote in the statement. “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 added: “As I said on a call with legislators, we could not fulfill their request as quickly as anyone would have liked.”
After the Post story was published on Thursday night, calls for Cuomo to be investigated and lose his emergency executive powers began to pour in.
“This is a betrayal of the public trust,” state Sen. Andrew Gounardes, a Brooklyn Democrat, tweeted. “There needs to be full accountability for what happened, and the legislature needs to reconsider its broad grant of emergency powers to the governor.”
Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik, whose sprawling district covers upstate New York’s North Country region through the Adirondack Mountains up to the Canadian border, went further.
“Governor Cuomo, the Secretary to the Governor, and his senior team must be prosecuted immediately – both by the Attorney General of New York State and the U.S. Department of Justice,” Stefanik wrote in a statement.
Stefanik has frequently lambasted Cuomo as “America’s worst governor,” with some Empire State political insiders privately speculating that she may challenge him in the 2022 governor’s race.
New York State Republican Committee Chairman Nick Langworthy held a press conference Friday morning to take Cuomo to task, telling reporters he did not believe Cuomo would resign but that he should face investigations, censure, and the removal of his executive powers granted by the Legislature at the outset of the pandemic.
Langworthy said New York politicians had been removed from office “for much less” and that “frankly, this is much worse than client No. 9,” referring to the prostitution scandal that forced Gov. Eliot Spitzer out of office in 2008.
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