Next time, check your email, Andrew!
House Republicans on Thursday provided The Post with a copy of an email sent last week to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s attorney asking him to appear at a Wednesday hearing on New York’s nursing home deaths scandal — casting doubt on his spokesman’s claim it got lost by the Postal Service.
House Oversight Committee staffer Ashlee Vinyard emailed Cuomo lawyer Rita Glavin on Sept. 16 directing her to “the attached invitation to Mr. Cuomo,” which the panel’s GOP majority also tweeted. Vinyard asked Glavin to “acknowledge receipt,” but she did not.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), the top Republican on the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) slammed Cuomo’s absence Wednesday, vowing to force his testimony with a subpoena next year if Republicans retake the House.
But Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi told The Post on Wednesday that the invitation never arrived.
“Scalise should learn to use [the] Postal Service because we never received the letter,” Azzopardi said.
Glavin and Azzopardi did not immediately respond to The Post’s inquiries on the email evidence supplied by the Republicans on the committee.
Scalise tore into Cuomo’s excuse in a statement to The Post, saying that Cuomo “continues to distort the facts and shift blame as he tries to cover up the truth about his deadly order sending COVID-positive patients into nursing homes.”
“We sent his lawyer an electronic invitation to appear before the subcommittee, but the former governor continues to block transparency and stonewall congressional oversight,” Scalise said.
“Additionally, we’ve called on Cuomo multiple times to provide information and data about his deadly ‘must admit’ order, but to date he continues covering up the truth. Americans deserve transparency and accountability, and the thousands of family members who lost loved ones deserve answers from the man who gave the deadly order forcing COVID-positive patients back into nursing homes.”
Scalise added that “when Republicans take back the House and have subpoena powers, Cuomo won’t be able to hide any longer from the accountability and transparency of congressional oversight.”
Stefanik, meanwhile, said she considered Cuomo’s successor and former lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, “complicit” in the nursing home deaths.
“Since Gov. Cuomo has been forced to resign, Kathy Hochul, who was the sitting lieutenant governor, promised to fight for transparency. She lied when she said that,” Stefanik said during the Wednesday hearing.
“As families came forward, they tried to reach the governor and share their views, as well as nursing home workers. But what was the governor focused on?” Stefanik said. “He was focused on winning his Emmy, which has since been taken away from him, and he was focused on cooking the books, withholding the numbers, so he could get his $5.2 million book contract, which was unethical.”
At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Cuomo on March 25, 2020, barred nursing homes from turning away patients “solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19,” which the families of victims say caused the deaths of thousands of elderly residents.
Cuomo’s order, in effect for less than two months, was intended to ease hospital crowding. But critics say it instead caused unnecessary deaths as federal treatment facilities unveiled with great fanfare by then-President Donald Trump were closed due to too few patients.
The Justice Department launched investigations in 2020 into whether New York violated the federal civil rights of nursing home patients and whether facilities provided “grossly substandard care.” The FBI later probed an apparent cover-up of deaths data.
The Post revealed last year that Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa confessed to Democratic legislators that the administration decided to conceal nursing home death statistics because “we froze” out of fear that the data would “be used against us” by prosecutors.
Federal investigations apparently were discontinued after President Biden took office and replaced Trump administration leaders at the Justice Department.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, last year said there were about 50 percent more nursing home patient deaths than reported by Cuomo’s administration. Her report indicated almost one-third of New York’s more than 43,000 COVID-19 deaths at the time were linked to nursing homes.
More than 13,000 New York nursing home patients may have died from the virus, according to James. The official state count acknowledged 8,711 deaths at the time. Before James released her findings, an Associated Press analysis in August 2020 found 11,000 New York nursing home residents may have died.
A book released last month by former White House adviser Jared Kushner said that Cuomo specifically mentioned his concern about nursing home safety 10 days before ordering homes to take sick patients.
Cuomo allegedly told Kushner, “For nursing homes, this could be like fire through dry grass,” before proceeding to issue the controversial order the following week.