Cuomo has found himself at the heart of a federal probe into whether his administration attempted to conceal the true rate of the pandemic.
The New York Post reported earlier this month that Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide, told legislators the administration had kept the tolls for fear of them being "used against us."
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, John B. Daukas, who served as acting U.S. attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, wrote that DeRosa’s reported admissions weren't "merely negligent, but intentional and perhaps criminal."
Daukas said various federal statutes could fit, noting that Cuomo’s administration is charged with both making false statements to the federal government and striving to impede an investigation.
"Even if it cannot be proved that the Cuomo administration knowingly provided false information to Justice and the (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), New York’s willful failure to provide information may itself constitute a criminal offense—particularly if the intent was to thwart a federal investigation—which, after all, is exactly what Ms. DeRosa reportedly said the administration did," Daukas wrote.
And on Saturday, Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett said DeRosa’s admission to lawmakers – if correct – constitutes a potential inhibitor of justice charge. Per the federal statute, Jarrett stated, "if a government official distorts or conceals evidence to avoid triggering an investigation (or acts out of fear that such a probe may occur) that official is still culpable under the law of obstruction."
The nursing home scandal has drawn great blows to the governor’s high reputation. Early on in the pandemic, the governor went on television for daily briefings that were paternal, almost philosophical, and also extremely critical of the Trump administration. They became must-see TV across the country, supported in part by his CNN news host brother.
Despite his state's death toll — more than 46,000 people in New York state have died of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University — Cuomo's popularity rose. In October, Cuomo took an early victory lap, releasing a book titled "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic." Leadership lessons on how to lie to the people you serve, you mean.
But the nursing home issue erupted onto the political scene with two recent discoveries. First, the state's Democratic attorney general chastised the Cuomo administration for minimizing the death toll at nursing homes by excluding certain fatalities from the count. Cuomo's administration then revealed at least 15,000 people living in long-term care facilities have died of COVID-19, nearly double the number Cuomo had initially disclosed.