Cuomo Lawyers Letter Reveals Subpoenas, Probes

The letter, written by outside attorney Elkan Abramowitz, pertains to "Grand Jury Investigation, F. #2021R00167," and asks federal investigators to drop a criminal inquiry into the Cuomo administration's suppression of nursing home death data attributable to COVID-19.

In arguing that New York has the ability to police such matters, the attorney's July letter stated that the Executive Chamber had received “subpoenas from the New York attorney general (regarding the governor’s book and priority COVID testing), the Manhattan district attorney’s office (regarding nursing homes), the New York State Assembly (regarding an impeachment investigation), and the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (regarding priority testing and the governor’s book)."

It had not been previously confirmed by Cuomo's office that JCOPE was investigating priority COVID testing or Cuomo's book, “American Crisis;” that the Manhattan district attorney's office was investigating Cuomo policies related to nursing homes; or that James' office was investigating the priority COVID testing.

On the priority COVID testing issue, James' office said in March it did not have jurisdiction, and asked JCOPE to investigate instead. James' office did not respond to a request for comment from the Times Union on Tuesday.

The New York Law Journal had previously reported on a state Department of Health legal contract, which referenced an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney's office related to the administration's COVID-19 response. But the specific topic was not clear; Abramowitz's letter says the topic was nursing homes.

Concerning JCOPE, an agency spokesman previously confirmed to the Times Union that the agency was investigating issues related to priority COVID testing, but did not specifically say the investigation pertained to Cuomo, or that a subpoena had been issued. 

JCOPE officials have never explicitly stated they're investigating Cuomo's book deal, or that they'd issued a subpoena to Cuomo's office. Such an investigation has been obliquely referenced during public sessions of meetings, as commissioners have debated whether to rescind JCOPE staff’s approval allowing Cuomo to write "American Crisis," a book recounting his early handling of the pandemic.

In his letter, Abramowitz argues that the federal inquiry was begun by a politically motivated Trump administration; that the Cuomo administration's decision not to include hospitals mortalities (when infections had begun at a nursing home) in the overall nursing home tally was appropriate; and that it was a discretionary public policy decision, allowable for a state government.

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“Simply put, we believe that New York state’s executive branch and its employees acted within their authority in the face of an unprecedented crisis and there is no possible criminal liability for any member of the Executive Chamber relating to these issues,” Abramowitz wrote.

The New York Times has reported that as Cuomo was seeking a publishing deal for the book in the summer of 2020 – which ultimately netted $5.1 million – Cuomo aides removed the higher nursing home deaths figures from a state Department of Health report.

Abramowitz countered in his letter that, “The implication of Times’s article is wrong — there was no connection between the governor’s book and the publication of nursing home deaths. But in any event, it is irrelevant to the analysis at hand. Even if there were some scheme to downplay nursing home deaths in order to make the governor look better to the public, and in turn that heightened public stature allowed him to obtain more money for his book, it would not be actionable under the property fraud statutes.”

He added that, “politicians across the country consistently publish books about their political endeavors — have they committed property fraud if, in the run up to publication they made false statements of self-serving puffery?"

A Department of Health study, released in July 2020, focused on whether a controversial order in March of that year — directing nursing homes to take in residents discharged from hospitals even if they tested positive for the disease — had led to more nursing home deaths. The state health department's report concluded that the Cuomo administration's directive was not responsible for a higher death toll, a finding contrary to what certain outside groups have concluded.

Source : https://www.timesunion.com/state/article/Cuomo-lawyer-s-letter-reveals-subpoenas-probes-16527411.php

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