Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial has concluded with an acquittal, just like his first impeachment trial a year earlier. Both impeachments were travesties of justice in which Democrats weaponized the impeachment process to exact political revenge on Trump. But there are times when government leaders have so badly abused their powers and violated the public trust that they must be held fully accountable for their misdeeds and removed from office if necessary. New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo is a prime example.
Thousands of elderly nursing home residents in New York lost their lives last spring because of Cuomo’s reckless disregard of human life in exercising his emergency powers to deal with the coronavirus crisis. He ordered last March that elderly patients infected with the coronavirus be sent from hospitals to nursing homes. “No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to [a nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19,” the order stated. “[Nursing homes] are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.”
As previously uninfected nursing home residents began to drop like flies in the wake of Cuomo’s directive, the governor reversed course last May. But Cuomo took no personal responsibility for the tragic loss of life. Instead, after shifting blame to anyone but himself, Cuomo and his top aides covered up the true extent of the human toll the nursing home directive had inflicted.
The first shoe that dropped evidencing a possible coverup was New York State Attorney General Letitia James’ release of a damaging report last month. The report estimated that if deaths of nursing home residents in hospitals from the coronavirus had been counted, the total tally of nursing home resident fatalities would have increased by more than 50 percent.
“As the pandemic and our investigations continue, it is imperative that we understand why the residents of nursing homes in New York unnecessarily suffered at such an alarming rate,” James said. “While we cannot bring back the individuals we lost to this crisis, this report seeks to offer transparency that the public deserves and to spur increased action to protect our most vulnerable residents.”
Transparency is not in Cuomo’s vocabulary. The governor revealed his callousness when he responded to the report with these chilling words: “Who cares [if they] died in the hospital, died in a nursing home? They died.”
What the families of the elderly victims care about and deserve is the truth about what led to their loved ones’ deaths and who is responsible for those deaths. They certainly won’t get the truth from Cuomo’s self-serving book about how well he thinks he handled the coronavirus crisis in New York. The Emmy he received for his news conference performances last spring is a cruel joke. A woman whose mom, a resident in a Long Island nursing home, died of COVID-19 last year, put it best when she called Andrew Cuomo and his book a “fraud.”
Clearer evidence of a coverup has come out since the release of New York Attorney General James’ report. The Associated Press reported on February 12th that, according to new records it had examined, “More than 9,000 recovering coronavirus patients in New York State were released from hospitals into nursing homes early in the pandemic under a controversial directive that was scrapped amid criticism it accelerated outbreaks.” This appalling number “is more than 40% higher than what the state health department previously released,” according to the Associated Press report.
Even more shocking, Cuomo’s top aide Melissa DeRosa let the cat out of the bag during a video conference call with Democrat state legislators. As heard on an audio recording of the call leaked to the press, DeRosa admitted that the Cuomo administration had withheld the state’s true nursing home death toll from legislators who had requested the data last August. In reconstructing the Cuomo administration’s scrambling to hide the truth at the time, DeRosa told the Democrat legislators that then-President Trump had directed “the Department of Justice to do an investigation into us. 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 short, DeRosa admitted that there was a deliberate attempt at the highest levels of the Cuomo administration to conceal scandalous and potentially incriminating information. She apologized to the legislators but not to the grieving families of the victims. The reaction to DeRosa’s remarks was swift and bipartisan. “Lawmakers from both parties have called for stripping the governor of the emergency powers that he has exercised during the pandemic,” the New York Times reported.
“Crucial information should never be withheld from entities that are empowered to pursue oversight,” said Democrat Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Majority Leader of the New York State Senate. Democrat State Senator Andrew Gounardes called DeRosa’s revelations “a betrayal of the public trust.”
Democrat Assemblyman Ron Kim was even more explicit. His uncle had reportedly died in a nursing home from the coronavirus. Kim said that DeRosa’s remarks sounded “like they admitted that they were trying to dodge having any incriminating evidence that might put the administration or the [Health Department] in further trouble with the Department of Justice.”
On the Republican side, State Senator Jim Tedisco called for a thorough investigation of possible obstruction of justice. He said that if what has been reported turns out to be true, Cuomo should either resign or be impeached and removed from office because he “has totally lost the trust of the people he represents and violated his oath of office.”
Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik minced no words in demanding prosecutions. “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,” Rep. Stefanik said. “This bombshell admission of a coverup and the remarks by the Secretary to the Governor indicating intent to obstruct any federal investigation is a stunning and criminal abuse of power. The families who lost loved ones, New Yorkers, and all Americans deserve accountability from the U.S. Department of Justice that will be independent and not swayed by the desperate political pressure from Governor Cuomo.”
There is no recall mechanism in New York like there is in California, where the hopelessly incompetent Governor Gavin Newsom is facing the real prospect of being recalled. Impeachment and removal from office are the remedies available in New York. If a thorough independent investigation confirms Governor Cuomo’s wrongdoing and he does not resign, he should be impeached and removed from office for his abuse of power, dereliction of duty, and obstruction of justice. The actions of Cuomo and his cronies should also be fully investigated by federal and state law enforcement agencies for possible criminal prosecution. Justice must be served for the benefit of the elderly who died unnecessarily as a direct result of Cuomo’s reckless order and for the benefit of their grieving families.