An ‘apparent obstruction of justice’: Scalise requests data on NY nursing home COVID deaths, transcribed interviews

As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) faces increasing criticism over reports that his administration underreported coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes and a preliminary federal investigation underway, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (La.) renewed his call Friday for Cuomo to provide all data on such deaths, describing his administration’s alleged conduct as an “apparent obstruction of justice”.

Scalise, the ranking member of Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, reiterated his call in a press release emailed Friday afternoon by the House Oversight Republicans.

The press release cites the February 11 New York Post exposé reporting that Melissa DeRosa, a top Cuomo aide, had privately admitted to Democratic lawmakers that the administration withheld nursing home death data out of fear that it would be “used against us” by federal prosecutors. On top of that, the release mentioned the report that Cuomo had allegedly threatened a Democratic assemblyman if he didn’t help cover up the nursing home deaths.

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“This apparent obstruction of justice necessitates an immediate and thorough investigation by Congress especially in light of the recent revelation that you and your Administration engaged in a cover-up aimed at concealing your culpability in New York State’s COVID-19 nursing home crisis,” Scalise wrote. “Recent reporting suggests that your attempts to cover-up the truth and conceal your culpability extend beyond obstruction to threats of retaliation toward anyone who might cross you. This behavior appears to be your modus operandi when anyone attempts to question your ‘leadership.’”

The press release goes on to mention that the subcommittee’s Republicans have repeatedly called for Cuomo to provide information regarding his since-rescinded directive ordering nursing homes and long-term care facilities to admit untested and contagious COVID-19 patients from hospitals. According to the press release, they first asked the governor in June 2020, and subsequent times in July 2020 and last month.

The document also brings up the state Attorney General Letitia James’ (D) report released late last month showing that COVID-19 nursing home deaths “may have been undercounted by as much as 50%.

The governor has repeatedly denied the reports and allegations that his administration covered up the nursing home deaths and that he threatened the assemblyman. At a Friday press conference, a defiant Cuomo denounced these, saying that it’s “a lie to say any numbers were inaccurate” and that “[t]otal deaths were always reported to nursing homes and hospitals.”

Related: Gov. Cuomo: It’s ‘a lie to say’ nursing home death numbers ‘were inaccurate’

In a letter from Scalise to Cuomo attached to the press release, the Louisiana Republican touched on the aforementioned points but also requested transcribed interviews from DeRosa and New York Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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