Federal prosecutors have subpoenaed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top aides for material related to his recent memoir as part of an investigation into the COVID-19 nursing home deaths, the Wall Street Journal reports.
According to the report, prosecutors for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn want contracts and “materials used to pitch the book to publishers.” Cuomo’s book, released in October last year, recounted the governor’s spin on how his administration responded to the coronavirus pandemic. The materials were requested by prosecutors last month.
The ongoing probe is to determine whether the governor acted to cover up nursing home deaths in his state in an attempt to shield his pandemic response from criticism, as many New York Republicans and Democrats allege. Former federal prosecutor Michael Weinstein told the Journal that the requested materials could help investigators determine what was really going on in Cuomo’s administration.
“If reflections memorialized in records and notes are inconsistent with what he was saying publicly or with disclosures to health or government officials, that is potentially problematic,” Weinstein said.
Cuomo has faced intense scrutiny and criticism for his State Department of Health’s March 25, 2020, order to nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients transported from hospitals. Elderly people are more susceptible to contracting and dying from the SARS-CoV-2 and transferring COVID-positive patients into nursing homes put thousands of New York seniors at risk of illness and death.
New York state has reported more than 5,000 confirmed and presumed COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
The governor has defended his order against attacks, accusing his critics of politicizing his actions.
“Anyone who wants to ask, why did the state do that with Covid patients in nursing homes? It’s because the state followed President Trump’s CDC guidance, so they should ask President Trump. I think that will stop the conversation,” Cuomo said last month after state Republicans called for an independent investigation into his order.
The Journal continues:
The criminal probe is an offshoot of inquiries in 2020 by the Justice Department’s civil rights and civil divisions that sought records on Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes in NewYork and other states led by Democratic governors, The Wall Street Journal has reported. An October letter viewed by the Journal said investigators were looking at possible violations of federal laws including the False Claims Act, which makes it illegal to knowingly submit a false record to the government.
The federal probe is also examining the drafting of a state law that granted civil and criminal immunity to nursing-home operators and whether the state improperly gave priority access to coronavirus testing to people close to Mr. Cuomo.
Mr. Cuomo’s senior adviser Rich Azzopardi, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn and PenguinRandom House, which published the book under its Crown imprint, all declined to comment.
The company reached a deal to pay Mr. Cuomo $5.1 million for the book, according to financial-disclosure and tax documents released by his office last month. Two separate state probes are investigating whether it was improper that administration officials helped edit a book draft last summer. Mr. Azzopardi has said officials volunteered their time to work on the project.
In February, Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa told Democratic state lawmakers that the administration delayed the release of nursing home data on the coronavirus infections to avoid political fallout and public criticism from former President Donald Trump. The Eastern District probe into Cuomo’s administration began shortly after this revelation.