DOJ won't investigate 2020 nursing home orders in New York, other states

Probe by federal prosecutors into New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration remains ongoing

The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division will not be launching investigations into nursing homes in New York and other states whose governors forced facilities to admit COVID-19 patients despite their vulnerable populations, the agency informed GOP lawmakers Friday.

However, an investigation by federal prosecutors into New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his administration over their handling of the crisis remains ongoing.

Protesters against Gov. Andrew Cuomo's handling of nursing homes COVID-19 deaths, gather outside Cobble Hill Health Center nursing home on Sunday, March 21, 2021 in New York. (Associated Press)

Protesters against Gov. Andrew Cuomo's handling of nursing homes COVID-19 deaths, gather outside Cobble Hill Health Center nursing home on Sunday, March 21, 2021 in New York. (Associated Press)

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In a letter to House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis ranking member Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., Deputy Assistant Attorney General Joe Gaeta wrote that the agency's Civil Rights Division has "decided not to open a [Civil Rights of Institutional Persons Act] investigation of any public nursing home facility within New York, Pennsylvania, or Michigan at this time" after reviewing information sent to them by the respective states.

The decision appeared to be a measure of good news for Cuomo, and likely better news for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who like Cuomo are Democrats.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The Civil Rights Division – which has the authority to investigate unlawful conditions in local- or state-run nursing homes – is, the letter said, currently conducting an investigation into two facilities in New Jersey, which is also led by a Democrat, Gov. Phil Murphy.

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The Times Union of Albany, New York, reported that the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn launched a probe into Cuomo's order on nursing homes and allegations that his administration under-reported COVID-19 deaths in the facilities in a purported effort to avoid political fallout. That investigation, launched after prompting from a delegation of New York lawmakers, is still ongoing.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.

The newspaper also reported that New York has a small number of government-run nursing homes that would fall under the DOJ Civil Rights Division's purview, with only 7% of the state's 630 nursing homes being run by state or local agencies.

Meanwhile, Republicans blasted the DOJ's decision not to launch investigations into the Democrat-run states. 

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"This decision from President Biden's Department of Justice makes President Biden complicit in the criminal corruption scandal and coverup of deaths of thousands of vulnerable seniors," No. 3 House Republican and New York Rep. Elise Stefanik wrote in a statement following the DOJ's letter, saying, "New Yorkers deserve answers and accountability."

"I was the first member of Congress to call for an investigation into Governor Cuomo's corrupt criminal coverup and I will continue to fight for the families who lost loved ones because of the cruelty and corruption of our Governor," she continued, adding, "Tens of thousands of heartbroken New Yorkers are counting on us to deliver justice for their loved ones. We will never give up."