The FBI and the US Attorney’s office in Brooklyn are investigating New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes and care facilities during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Albany Times-Union.
The investigation, which is in its early stages, is focused on the “work of some senior members of the governor’s task force,” according to the report.
"As we publicly said, DOJ (Department of Justice) has been looking into this for months," Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for the governor, told the outlet. "We have been cooperating with them and we will continue to."
Weeks after Cuomo formed the task force last March, the health department directed nursing homes and long-term care facilities to accept coronavirus-positive patients discharged by hospitals as long as they could care for them. The directive, which was rescinded weeks later, drew criticism for months.
Last month, New York Attorney General Letitia James issued a report finding the the state severely undercounted nursing home deaths.
Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide, privately admitted to top Democrats last week that the administration withheld the death data because they were concerned they would be targeted by the Justice Department.
Lawmaker: Cuomo threatened me:
New York Assembly Member Ron Kim told CNN on Wednesday that Cuomo threatened him in response to comments Kim made following DeRosa’s admission.
"Gov. Cuomo called me directly on Thursday to threaten my career if I did not cover up for Melissa [DeRosa] and what she said. He tried to pressure me to issue a statement, and it was a very traumatizing experience," Kim said, telling the outlet that Cuomo told him "we're in this business together and we don't cross certain lines and he said I hadn't seen his wrath and that he can destroy me.”
"No man has ever spoken to me like that in my entire life," said Kim, who has been highly critical of Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes. "At some point he tried to humiliate me, asking: 'Are you a lawyer? I didn't think so. You're not a lawyer.' It almost felt like in retrospect he was trying to bait me and anger me and say something inappropriate. I'm glad I didn't."
Azzopardi accused Kim of lying, though his wife told CNN that she heard parts of the call.
"The Governor has three witnesses to the conversation. The operable words were to the effect of, 'I am from Queens, too, and people still expect honor and integrity in politics,'" Azzopardi said.
CNN reported that three other New York Democratic lawmakers said that Cuomo and his top aides threatened them since last week.
Democrats may strip Cuomo powers:
New York Democratic state Senate leaders are moving to strip Cuomo of emergency powers he was granted last year amid the mounting scandals, according to The New York Times.
The Senate may vote as soon as next week on whether to revoke the powers or limit them.
“We need to remind them that state government is not one big branch: There’s three of them,” said state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, who heads the health committee.
A group of 14 Senate Democrats signed on to a statement saying that “it is clear that the expanded emergency powers granted to the governor are no longer appropriate.”
“I think everyone understands where we were back in March and where we are now,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrew Stewart-Cousins. “We certainly see the need for a quick response but also want to move toward a system of increased oversight and review. The public deserves to have checks and balances.”