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House COVID panel subpoenas former NY Gov. Cuomo over nursing home deaths

The House committee investigating the coronavirus pandemic response issued a subpoena Tuesday for former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) over his alleged failure to cooperate with a probe into the state’s COVID-19 nursing home policies.

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic is demanding Cuomo appear for a closed-door deposition on May 24. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), the subcommittee’s chairman, has previously requested interviews with former Cuomo administration officials, including former top aide Melissa DeRosa.

Cuomo became a nationally known figure early in the pandemic by conducting daily briefings from Albany, contrasting himself with then-President Trump.

Wenstrup in a statement accused the former governor of stonewalling the investigation and said the panel had been met with months and months of “repeated and unjustified delays.”

The panel has been investigating COVID-19 nursing home policy decisions made by Cuomo and the Democratic leaders of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Specifically, the panel is looking into Cuomo’s “must admit” order, which said nursing homes could not turn away patients who tested positive for COVID-19, as long as they were medically stable.

The facilities were also prohibited from requiring hospitalized residents to be tested for the virus before their admission or readmission in nursing homes.

The move was made early in the pandemic and was meant to help relieve overburdened hospitals, which were sending patients elsewhere to help free up capacity.

The virus decimated New York’s nursing homes, killing more than 15,000 people. But multiple investigations into the Cuomo administration’s nursing home policies by the Department of Justice as well as state and local investigators did not lead to any conclusions of wrongdoing.

In early 2021, a report from New York State Attorney General Letitia James found that COVID deaths in New York state had been “undercounted” by as much as 50 percent.

Cuomo resigned in August 2021 amid allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, and as criticism of his COVID response mounted.

“Not only did the former Governor put the elderly in harm’s way, but he also attempted to cover-up his failures by hiding the true nursing home death rate,” Wenstrup said in a statement. “It appears that politics, not medicine, was responsible for these decisions. And that while Mr. Cuomo is adept at seeking legal advice, he is not necessarily adept at seeking medical advice.”

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said the subpoena is a political attack, and slammed House Republicans for failing to pass a budget or Ukraine aid.

“Instead, they continue to play politics with Covid and weaponize people’s pain and loss of loved ones,” Azzopardi said. “Congress is officially a circus and they are nothing but clowns.”

Wenstrup’s letter describes months of back-and-forth between the committee and Cuomo’s representatives over the past three months, which the Ohio Republican described as stalling attempts.

“It is now clear that your strategy from the beginning has been to delay and undermine our investigation. You have repeatedly and consistently dismissed, deflected, or ignored all questions and requests from the Select Subcommittee related to your handling of nursing homes,” Wenstrup wrote.

Cuomo’s attorney Rita Galvin said the former governor “has been and remains cooperative.” In an attempt to stave off a subpoena, she sent a letter to the panel on Monday proposing four potential dates in August for a voluntary interview.

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