FBI and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are investigating Cuomo’s coronavirus task force with a particular focus on his administration’s handling of nursing homes early in the coronavirus pandemic, two sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.
According to an investigation conducted by New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office and released on Jan. 28, the number of New York nursing home residents who died of COVID-19 may have been undercounted by as much as 50%. A statement from James said the probe investigated “conduct that may have jeopardized the health and safety of residents and employees.”
In recent weeks, the administration revealed that 15,000 long-term care residents have died, up from the 8,500 previously disclosed, New York ABC station WABC reported.
On Feb. 10, Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, confirmed the contents of a September conference call recording with Democratic state legislators, first reported by the New York Post, saying the governor’s office withheld the true number of coronavirus deaths over concerns they would “be used against us” by the Justice Department under then-President Donald Trump.
Assemblyman Kim of Flushing, Queens, who was on the call with DeRosa, told the New York Post the following day that DeRosa’s remarks seemed to create the appearance that the administration was “trying to dodge having any incriminating evidence that might put the administration or the [Health Department] in further trouble with the Department of Justice.”
It was after those comments that Kim said he received an unexpected call from Cuomo on Feb. 11. He recounted his version of the conversation to “The View” co-hosts.
“I was about to bathe my three kids when I received a call from the governor. He spent ten minutes threatening my career and ordering me to issue a statement that would be used to cover for the state secretary,” Kim said.
Kim said he expected to celebrate the Lunar New Year with his family that weekend, but added that was interrupted by “many calls” and “many other attempts” made by Cuomo and his staff to get in contact with him. “I realized that [Cuomo]’s continuing to ask me to cover up for [DeRosa],” he said. “At that point I needed to get an attorney, which I did over the weekend.”
“Cuomo is an abuser,” Kim alleged. “He has abused his powers. Abusers are cowards.”
Cuomo’s spokesperson Rich Azzopardi has denied Kim’s allegations, claiming to be “one of three other people in the room when the phone call occurred.”
Azzopardi added that Kim’s claims are “beyond the pale and is unfortunately part of a years-long pattern of lies by Mr. Kim against this administration.”
During a 90-minute news conference Friday, Cuomo offered one concession: “I was not aggressive enough in knocking down the falsities,” which he blamed on former President Donald Trump.
“It started with Donald Trump, this whole nursing home thing,” Cuomo said in a soliloquy explaining how “crazy political theories” filled the void he and his administration created by failing to supply the public with nursing home information.
Cuomo insisted he wanted to “take the town down” in his spat with lawmakers but he also said he said he would aggressively call out misinformation.
“If you’re lying to the people of the state of New York I’m going to call it out,” Cuomo said.
In response to Azzopardi, Kim told “The View” his statement was “a classic Cuomo deflection straight out of the Cuomo playbook.”
“Unfortunately, this playbook won’t save the governor from the truth,” Kim continued. “That is a mistake they have to answer for.”
“Those of us who’ve lost loved ones as a result of these actions deserve the dignity of an honest answer,” Kim added. Kim believes his own uncle died from a presumed case of COVID in a nursing home last year, CNN reported.
Sources tell ABC News that Albany lawmakers will begin discussing whether to strip Cuomo of some his coronavirus emergency powers in the aftermath of the revelation. It’s unclear whether the leaders of either the Assembly or the Senate would be on board with such a move.
Joining calls to conduct a full investigation into Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. She voiced her stance on the matter in a statement released Friday afternoon.
“I support our state’s return to co-equal governance and stand with our local officials calling for a full investigation of the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing homes during COVID-19,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
“Thousands of vulnerable New Yorkers lost their lives in nursing homes throughout the pandemic. Their loved ones and the public deserve answers and transparency from their elected leadership, and the Secretary to the Governor’s remarks warrant a full investigation.”
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ABC News’ Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.