Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called Monday on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign after an ex-Trump official said that the state “stonewalled” Justice Department investigators seeking information on nursing home deaths.
“That’s explicitly obstruction. It is a crime,” the Republican Gingrich said on Fox News. “At a minimum, he has to resign. At a maximum, he has to be I think indicted.”
His comments came after John Daukas, who served last year as acting U.S. assistant attorney general for the Justice Department Civil Rights Division, said that the Cuomo administration may have committed federal criminal offenses by failing to cooperate with a request for state nursing home data.
Mr. Daukas said in a Sunday op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that the division began investigating New York in August over Mr. Cuomo’s claims that his state’s nursing home deaths from the novel coronavirus were lower than those of most states.
A month later, the department received data from New York that showed reported deaths from government-run senior long-term care facilities, which account for less than 5% of the state total, were a third higher than previously reported.
After the department followed up with a request for data about the state’s 600 private nursing homes, “New York stonewalled and didn’t produce anything throughout the rest of the year,” Mr. Daukas said on “Fox & Friends.”
He speculated state officials were “perhaps waiting for a change in administration,” citing Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa, who told Democratic state legislators in a private call earlier this month that officials “froze” over concerns that the data would be used against them.
“Ms. DeRosa’s reported admissions indicate the Cuomo administration’s conduct wasn’t merely negligent, but intentional and perhaps criminal,” Mr. Daukas said in the op-ed. “Numerous federal criminal statutes could apply. It’s a crime to make false statements to the federal government. It’s also a crime to conceal information and otherwise obstruct government investigations.”
Mr. Cuomo, who has denied allegations of a cover-up, faces mounting criticism over his handling of nursing homes stemming from his March 25 order requiring senior facilities to accept stable COVID-19 patients. The order was effectively rescinded May 10.
Mr. Daukas said that “something that’s often overlooked [is] the order prohibited the nursing homes from testing those people to determine if they had Covid, so those people were put back in with a very vulnerable population.”
Grateful to Former DOJ official John Daukas for coming on this morning to talk about his brilliant essay in today’s @wsj on why Gov. Cuomo should be concerned about a federal probe. He’s a hero to our families who are praying for justice. https://t.co/5mxyrUjfhb
— Janice Dean (@JaniceDean) February 22, 2021
New York had more than 32,000 COVID-19 deaths by the end of the summer, twice as many as any other state.
More than 15,000 New York nursing home patients died of the virus, according to state figures released last month after the state attorney general’s office found such deaths had been underreported by as much as 50%.
Mr. Cuomo has insisted that his administration has always released accurate data and blamed the uproar on partisan politics. He faces calls for a state investigation and efforts by state legislators, including Democrats, to strip him of his emergency pandemic powers.
State Republicans have also called for the formation of an Impeachment Commission, while
Democratic Assemblymember Ron Kim, a Cuomo critic, raised the impeachment scenario in a Monday tweet.
“Cuomo abused his powers to hide life and death information from the Department of Justice that prevented lawmakers from legislating — like fully repealing corporate immunity for nursing homes,” Mr. Kim tweeted. “That is an impeachable offense.”
Mr. Cuomo announced Friday sweeping nursing home legislation to “increase transparency, hold nursing home operators accountable for misconduct and help ensure facilities are prioritizing patient care over profits.”
The attorney general’s report said the state had not counted nursing home patients who died in hospitals, while Mr. Daukas noted that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services did not require states to report nursing home deaths until mid-May.
“But New York officials knew the data they reported to CMS only went back to mid-May,” Mr. Daukas said. “The Cuomo administration misled the public when it relied on that data to claim in late September that the state’s total nursing home deaths were low.”