New York governor Andrew Cuomo during a COVID-19 briefing, May 27, 2020 (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
The FBI and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York are investigating Governor Andrew Cuomo’s coronavirus task force and its actions regarding nursing homes, the Times Union reported on Wednesday.
The news comes amid heightened scrutiny into the state’s data on coronavirus victims in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Top Cuomo aide Melissa de Rosa has admitted the state misrepresented the number of victims in nursing homes, and the state revealed in early February that the true number of victims was close to double what was previously reported.
The probe by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District has begun only recently, a person with knowledge of the matter told the Times Union. Investigators are focusing on the actions of Cuomo’s coronavirus task force. It isn’t clear which members are under investigation, although the task force includes de Rosa, Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, and Linda Lacewell, a former chief of staff for Cuomo.
The state is also the subject of a U.S. Justice Department investigation, which began in mid-2020. It is not known if the U.S. attorney’s investigation is connected to the DOJ probe.
“As we publicly said, DOJ (Department of Justice) has been looking into this for months,” Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi told the Times Union. “We have been cooperating with them and we will continue to.” (Azzopardi apparently did not refer to the probe by the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office.)
Meanwhile, Cuomo faces a possible revolt of Democratic lawmakers in the New York state legislature, some of whom want to strip the governor of emergency powers granted at the beginning of the pandemic. Assemblyman Ron Kim (D., Queens), a vocal critic of Cuomo whose uncle was a nursing home resident presumed to have died of coronavirus in April, has alleged the governor threatened to “destroy” him if he did not back de Rosa on the nursing home issue.