New York state officials who edited early versions of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s book on his COVID-19 response have been subpoenaed in the investigation into the alleged cover-up long-term-care facility death counts, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Among the materials sought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn are contracts and the information on the book’s pitch to publishers, including state officials, sources told the Journal.
The criminal investigation originally sought data on when and where long-term-care residents died during the pandemic, but has now expanded to the governor’s administrative actions, according to the report.
The book publisher Penguin Random House, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, and Cuomo senior adviser Rich Azzopardi all declined comment to the Journal.
A bipartisan group of New York state lawmakers have claimed Gov. Cuomo’s administration undercounted the COVID-19 deaths after the governor mandated long-term-care facilities to accept infection patients at the start of the pandemic – despite widespread warnings from scientific experts seniors who compromised immune systems were most vulnerable to serious complications from the virus, particularly the risk of death.
The materials in pitching the book are seen as important to investigators because of captured information in real time, according to former federal prosecutor Michael Weinstein.
“If reflections memorialized in records and notes are inconsistent with what he was saying publicly or with disclosures to health or government officials, that is potentially problematic,” Weinstein, a defense attorney at Cole Schotz P.C., told the Journal.
The focus of the criminal probe involves potential violations of federal law, including the False Claims Act, which makes it a crime to knowingly submit a false record to the government, the Journal reported.
Also, federal prosecutors are looking at the draft of a state law that would have granted civil and criminal immunity to nursing-home operations and whether Gov. Cuomo granted priority access to COVID-19 testing.
Cuomo had a $5.1 million deal for the book “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” according to financial-disclosure and tax documents.
Cuomo defends his nursing-home mandate in the book, despite claims it helped spread and kill residents in New York long-term-care facilities.
Among the claims levied against the Cuomo administration is it only counted deaths at the facilities and not seriously ill patients who needed to be hospitalized and ultimately died.
The Cuomo administration initially delayed the data release to the public, claiming it needed more time to verify accuracy, according to the Journal.
A July New York Health Department report claimed the March 25 order was “not a significant factor in nursing home fatalities,” and that report was altered by Cuomo officials, the Journal had reported.
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