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

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A defiant New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Friday derided reports and allegations that his administration severely downplayed the number of coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes and hid the numbers to avoid a federal investigation, saying that it’s “a lie to say any numbers were inaccurate.”

“It is a lie to say any numbers were inaccurate,” Cuomo told reporters at a Friday press conference. “That is a lie. Total deaths were always reported to nursing homes and hospitals.”

“I’m not going to let New Yorkers be lied to,” Cuomo also said. “I’m not going to let you hurt New Yorkers by lying about what happened surrounding the death of a loved one.”

In recent weeks, the administration revealed that 15,000 long-term care residents have died, up from the 8,500 previously disclosed, according to NBC News.

It was first reported Wednesday by The Albany Times Union that, following reports about the numbers, the FBI and the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn have begun a preliminary investigation into how Cuomo’s administration handled data about COVID-19 nursing home deaths.

Late last month, state Attorney General Letitia James (D) released a report showing that the number of nursing home deaths “may have been undercounted by as much as 50%

On top of that, a February 11 New York Post exposé reported that Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, had privately admitted to Democratic lawmakers that the administration withheld death data out of fear that it would be “used against us” by federal prosecutors.

Furthermore, state Assemblyman Ron Kim (D) claimed to The New York Post on Wednesday that Cuomo recently threatened him over the phone, warning Kim that he would be “destroyed” if he did not help contain the damage over his alleged cover-up of nursing home deaths. Cuomo’s senior advisor, Richard Azzopardi, denied Kim’s story and accused the Queens assemblyman of lying.

Adding more fuel to the fire, a study released Thursday by the nonprofit Empire Center for Public Policy, according to The Post, tied “several hundred and possibly more than 1,000” nursing home deaths to a since-rescinded March 25, 2020 directive that controversially ordered nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients during the pandemic’s early stage.

A quickly growing number of state and federal politicians on both sides of the aisle are calling either for a full investigation into Cuomo’s administration, stripping him of his pandemic-related emergency powers, or removing him from office entirely.

Friday afternoon, in a major development, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) joined the calls for a “full investigation.”

“I support our state’s return to co-equal governance and stand with our local officials calling for a full investigation of the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing homes during COVID-19,” she wrote in a statement, according to The Post.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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EXCLUSIVE: Former Trump appointee explains an ‘America First Strategy’ in the ME

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Photo: Israeli Government

The author interviewed Ellie Cohanim, one of the authors of the new book: “An America First Approach to US National Security.” Ellie is the former U.S. Deputy Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism under the Trump administration. She is currently a Senior Fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum focusing on Iran, Israel, and global antisemitism, and is a national security contributor for the Christian Broadcasting Network. In 2021, Ellie launched and hosted for Jewish News Syndicate 30 plus episodes of the show “Global Perspectives with Ellie Cohanim.” Ellie spent 15 years in media and NGO management before serving in the public sector. How would you define an “America First” strategy in the Middle East?

Cohanim: An America First strategy in the Middle East would seek to advance American national security interests in that region, while maintaining our status as THE global superpower. To do that, the US would ensure that our principal allies in the region, countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel, are economically and militarily strong, and that our adversaries in the region are deterred.

Postal: How has the United States’ standing in the Middle East differed between the Trump and Biden administrations?

Cohanim: Under President Trump, for four years we had peace, stability and prosperity in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region. Under President Biden, in just three tumultuous years there has been war in the region, which holds the potential for becoming a regional conflict and even a nuclear confrontation. Meanwhile, the US’ status in the region and the world has diminished due to Biden’s disastrous mishandling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, his emboldening of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and his weak response to Iranian attacks on our personnel and assets in the region. 

 

Postal: Do you think the United States and Israel are/were in a stronger position to deter Iran’s nuclear and territorial ambitions in Biden or Trump’s administration?

Cohanim: America’s position of strength has not changed under either administration vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic of Iran. What has changed is our Iran policy. Under President Trump’s administration, the US contained and constrained Tehran. Trump applied a “Maximum Pressure” sanctions campaign which left the Iranian Regime with only $4 billion in accessible foreign currency reserves by the end of his term, giving the Iranians less cash and less ability to fund their terror proxies and their nuclear program, and Trump eliminated Qassem Soleimani. While all President Biden needed to do was to continue implementing such successful policies, his administration instead did the exact opposite.  Under the Biden administration, Israel, our leading ally in the region, was attacked for the first time directly from Iranian soil. This was an unprecedented escalatory attack by the Iranian regime, and could only happen under the Biden administration.

Postal: In your chapter of the book, you discuss the weakening of US relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia under the Biden administration. How has the Biden administration affected the likelihood of future normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and deals between Israel and other Muslim countries (i.e., new Abraham Accords)?

Cohanim: The good news is that the Abraham Accords have withstood the test of multiple Hamas provocations against Israel, and now the current war. Despite numerous claims from the Biden administration regarding “successful” efforts to normalize ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, I do not think that the Biden administration will be able to clinch such a deal. In the Middle East, people have a long memory. Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has not forgotten President Biden’s snub when he first came into office, and Biden’s incredibly poorly advised behavior towards the Crown Prince when he made his first visit to the Kingdom as president. The last thing the Crown Prince wants is to hand Biden his first foreign policy success with a Rose Garden peace deal ceremony. So, I do not believe President Biden can broker Saudi/Israeli normalization.

However, I am also convinced that it is a matter of “when” and not “if” such a peace deal will happen between those two countries, as it serves both of their interests to make such a deal. The Saudis understand better than anyone that it is the Islamic Republic of Iran that threatens the Kingdom’s security and stability, not Israel.

Postal: What do you think of the Biden administration’s latest statements withholding arms to Israel?

Cohanim: President Biden will go down in history for his abject moral failure in not standing by Israel while she fights a five-front war. Biden has shown his despicable personality for trying to keep his anti-Israel arms embargo concealed until he could first deliver a speech on the Holocaust. Biden’s behavior is despicable on so many levels.

Ultimately, Biden is betraying the American people. He came into office presenting himself as a “centrist Democrat,” but has proven repeatedly to be beholden to the radical, extremist, pro-Hamas wing of his party.

Postal: How does the Biden administration’s support of a Palestinian state differ from the Trump administration’s support of a Palestinian state under its Peace to Prosperity framework?

Cohanim: The Biden administration stated that they will “unilaterally recognize” a Palestinian state. What the borders of that state are and who would lead it, nobody knows. 

The Trump administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” was a detailed plan that was premised on the realities on the ground in Israel. The plan required that the Palestinians reach benchmarks proving a real desire to live in peace with their Israeli neighbors. It included over $50 billion in investment in the region, which would have been a road to prosperity for all. Perhaps most significantly, the Palestinian state envisioned under the Trump plan would have been demilitarized, the wisdom of which could not be more clear following the October 7 massacre and attack.

The author would like to thank Ellie Cohanim for participating in this interview.

 

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