New York Assemblyman Michael Montesano said he plans to ask the state legislature to consider impeaching Gov. Andrew Cuomo after a bombshell admission by his top aide that their office allegedly covered up data on COVID-19 nursing home deaths to shake off a Justice Department probe on the matter.
“We’ve been calling for subpoenas and a hearing for quite a while,” Montesano, a Republican member of the state’s Oversight and Investigations Committee, told Fox News. “This news of the last several days is extremely troubling to me and I’m going to be asking today for his resignation and I’m also going to be asking the legislature to look into, to explore filing articles of impeachment against the governor if he doesn’t resign.”
Calls for a criminal probe against Cuomo and his staff mounted after Melissa DeRosa, the secretary to the governor, told top New York Democrats on Thursday that Cuomo’s administration feared the data about COVID-19 deaths could “be used against us” by the Justice Department in the midst of its federal probe initiated against four states regarding nursing home deaths, including New York, and thus the administration withheld the actual death count.
“This is now criminal,” Montesano, a Republican who represents District-15, said. “The governor wants to talk about how our attacks on him are political. They’re not political, this we’ve had an inkling all the while that they were covering stuff up, and now she admitted that she covered stuff up because she knew the Department of Justice has an active investigation going on of the nursing home problems which a lot of us in the legislature, especially in the minority, requested that they do.
“She’s obstructing an investigation. This is what makes it even more troubling,” he added.
“If I had to make an educated guess, I believe she realizes DOJ is doing an investigation, things may be getting close, and she wants to divest herself of whatever wrongdoing she may have done if she’s covered something up and if she’s trying to get out in front of it,” Montesano said of De Rosa’s shocking admission, which she tried to walk back in a statement released Friday.
U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo he plans on filing a criminal complaint against DeRosa to have her arrested.
Montesano said he supports the congressman’s aggressive push to hold Cuomo and top staffers accountable, calling their conduct “very egregious.”
Cuomo had long faced criticism for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic — in early 2020 after he directed nursing homes in the Empire State to accept patients who had or were suspected of having COVID-19. The decision created an onslaught of COVID-19 cases that infected thousands of elderly patients and resulted in hundreds of deaths among the state’s most vulnerable population.
In late January, New York Attorney General Letitia James revealed Cuomo’s Department of Health underreported COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50%.
The New York Department of Health reported that as of Jan. 27, 2021, there were 5,957 confirmed deaths due to COVID-19 in nursing homes and an additional 2,783 presumed deaths. In assisted care facilities, there were 160 deaths and 52 presumed deaths.
But on Wednesday, the state revealed the number of deaths was actually 15,049 residents in elder care facilities (nursing homes and assisted living/adult care facilities), according to a letter from the State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker sent to Senate Democrats.
New York lawmakers at the state and federal levels have been ramping up pressure against the governor calling for him to resign.
“Resignation is one thing and I have to be frank with you, he’s too arrogant to think about doing that. He’s for himself, not for these people,” Montesano told Fox News.
“That’s why I’m asking if there’s a possibility for impeachment under the New York State Constitution,” Montesano said. “It’s worth it for the legislature to explore because this is far-reaching.”
Republican Assemblyman Kieran Lalor also says he supports an impeachment inquiry into Cuomo.
“Because of the massive loss of life, the cover up of nursing home deaths is not worse than the crime. But the cover up is still extremely bad,” Lalor told Fox News in a statement. “There should be an investigation into whether Cuomo and his staff obstructed the US Department of Justice.”
“The comments by Cuomo’s top aide seems to be an admission of obstruction,” he added. “The public has a right to know how involved the Governor was in the obstruction. Unlike California, New York, unfortunately, has no mechanism whereby citizens can directly attempt to remove a sitting chief executive. In New York, it is up to the people’s elected representatives to use the impeachment process. Impeachment should be on the table.”