New York Gov. Cuomo is facing calls to resign after a leaked call revealed his administration withheld new COVID-19 nursing-home deaths

New York Gov. Cuomo is facing calls to resign after a leaked call revealed his administration withheld new COVID-19 nursing-home deaths
New York Gov. Andrew CuomoLev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York is taking heavy criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.
  • A leaked video call from his top aide showed his administration was withholding key COVID-19 data.
  • The aide, Melissa DeRosa, explained her remarks, and the governor's office released a transcript.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York is under pressure from both sides of the aisle following a leaked call from his top aide about COVID-19 nursing-home deaths.

Melissa DeRosa, the secretary to the governor and widely considered to be one of the most powerful New York state officials, told lawmakers on a video call Wednesday that the administration withheld additional death totals while facing both federal and state inquiries. The New York Post reported details of the call Thursday night.

Both Democrats and Republicans are calling for Cuomo to be stripped of his pandemic emergency powers in response to the call, with some going further to demand investigations and even the governor's resignation.
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Cuomo was already facing criticism after a report from his own attorney general accused his administration of undercounting nursing-home deaths. New York Attorney General Tish James said the Cuomo administration undercounted the deaths by specifically by omitting those who likely contracted the virus in a nursing home but died in a hospital.

The outpouring of condemnations amounts to the most significant pressure Cuomo has faced in his political career - even beyond a series of ethics concerns around the Joint Commission on Public Ethics and the scrapped Moreland Commission - with 14 Democratic state senators calling for his emergency powers to be taken away by the Legislature.

The governor's office released a transcript of the call on Friday morning.
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DeRosa said in the call that the governor's office was hanging on to the numbers because she wasn't sure if they'd be used against the administration if there was an investigation.

The key passage from the transcript comes after DeRosa was asked by a state senator why the governor's office was taking so long to release an audit of the nursing-home death numbers:

Senator, I can take this question. I don't know that this is going to satisfy you, but it's the truth and the truth works almost every time. The letter comes in at the end of August and right around the same time, President Trump turns this into a giant political football. He starts tweeting that we killed everyone in nursing homes, he starts going after Murphy, starts going after Newsom, starts going after Gretchen Whitmer. 

He directs the Department of Justice to do an investigation into us. He finds one person at DOJ, who since has been fired because this person is now known to be a political hack, who sends letters out to all of these different governors. And basically, we froze, because then we were in a position where we weren't sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice or what we give to you guys, what we start saying was going to be used against us while we weren't sure if there was going to be an investigation ... In the intervening period, the second wave happened. The vaccine rollout started and all of our attention shifted elsewhere. And I know that's not the answer you want to hear and you guys should be the only priority that we have as we're moving through this. 

DeRosa also released a statement accompanying the transcript.
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"I was explaining that when we received the DOJ inquiry, we needed to temporarily set aside the Legislature's request to deal with the federal request first," DeRosa wrote in the statement. "We informed the houses of this at the time. We were comprehensive and transparent in our responses to the DOJ, and then had to immediately focus our resources on the second wave and vaccine rollout.

She added: "As I said on a call with legislators, we could not fulfill their request as quickly as anyone would have liked."

After the Post story was published on Thursday night, calls for Cuomo to be investigated and lose his emergency executive powers began to pour in.
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"This is a betrayal of the public trust," state Sen. Andrew Gounardes, a Brooklyn Democrat, tweeted. "There needs to be full accountability for what happened, and the legislature needs to reconsider its broad grant of emergency powers to the governor."

Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik, whose sprawling district covers upstate New York's North Country region through the Adirondack Mountains up to the Canadian border, went further.

"Governor Cuomo, the Secretary to the Governor, and his senior team must be prosecuted immediately - both by the Attorney General of New York State and the U.S. Department of Justice," Stefanik wrote in a statement.
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Stefanik has frequently lambasted Cuomo as "America's worst governor," with some Empire State political insiders privately speculating that she may challenge him in the 2022 governor's race.

New York State Republican Committee Chairman Nick Langworthy held a press conference Friday morning to take Cuomo to task, telling reporters he did not believe Cuomo would resign but that he should face investigations, censure, and the removal of his executive powers granted by the Legislature at the outset of the pandemic.

Langworthy said New York politicians had been removed from office "for much less" and that "frankly, this is much worse than client No. 9," referring to the prostitution scandal that forced Gov. Eliot Spitzer out of office in 2008.
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