NYT, WSJ: Cuomo "top aides" began cover-up of nursing-home deaths far earlier than thought

Game over, or at least it should be, courtesy of the two biggest newspapers in Andrew Cuomo’s state. Not only did Cuomo’s “top aides” force state officials to report false numbers of nursing-home deaths from Cuomo’s insane readmission policy, it happened long before the Trump administration took an interest in the issue, the New York Times reported late last night. Instead of hiding the numbers to avoid Donald Trump’s politicization, the timing suggests that Cuomo wanted to make sure nothing detracted from his book sales:

Top aides to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo were alarmed: A report written by state health officials had just landed, and it included a count of how many nursing home residents in New York had died in the pandemic.

The number — more than 9,000 by that point in June — was not public, and the governor’s most senior aides wanted to keep it that way. They rewrote the report to take it out, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The New York Times.

The extraordinary intervention, which came just as Mr. Cuomo was starting to write a book on his pandemic achievements, was the earliest act yet known in what critics have called a monthslong effort by the governor and his aides to obscure the full scope of nursing home deaths.

After the state attorney general revealed earlier this year that thousands of deaths of nursing home residents had been undercounted, Mr. Cuomo finally released the complete data, saying he had withheld it out of concern that the Trump administration might pursue a politically motivated inquiry into the state’s handling of the outbreak in nursing homes.

But Mr. Cuomo and his aides actually began concealing the numbers months earlier, as his aides were battling their own top health officials, and well before requests for data arrived from federal authorities, according to documents and interviews with six people with direct knowledge of the discussions, who requested anonymity to describe the closed-door debates.

The Wall Street Journal chimed in as well, reporting essentially the same story, perhaps from some of the same sources. They point out the other obvious issue — that Cuomo and his team knew full well that his policy had deadly consequences while they told legislators and the media a different story altogether for several more months:

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top advisers successfully pushed state health officials to strip a public report of data showing that more nursing-home residents had died of Covid-19 than the administration had acknowledged, according to people with knowledge of the report’s production.

The July report, which examined the factors that led to the spread of the virus in nursing homes, focused only on residents who died inside long-term-care facilities, leaving out those who had died in hospitals after becoming sick in nursing homes. As a result, the report said 6,432 nursing-home residents had died—a significant undercount of the death toll attributed to the state’s most vulnerable population, the people said. The initial version of the report said nearly 10,000 nursing-home residents had died in New York by July last year, one of the people said.

The changes Mr. Cuomo’s aides and health officials made to the nursing-home report, which haven’t been previously disclosed, reveal that the state possessed a fuller accounting of out-of-facility nursing-home deaths as early as the summer. The Health Department resisted calls by state and federal lawmakers, media outlets and others to release the data for another eight months.

Note the similarities between both reports, which set the cover-up juuuuust below Cuomo himself. Both reports point the finger at Cuomo’s “top aides” rather than the governor himself. The NYT had six sources for its report, and the WSJ also had multiple sources, but apparently none of them could directly tie Cuomo to these efforts. Either these sources really want to burn Cuomo’s closest aides, or the Love Gov made sure to keep a buffer between himself and the cover-up.

Does that help in this case? Er … not really, no. The “top aides” didn’t create the policy requiring the cover-up.  Cuomo took ownership of that policy publicly, and did so from the beginning. His top aides didn’t stand to benefit from a cover-up; the one who benefited most from it was the man who was about to launch a book tour. And that’s not just about the ego trip and the Emmy either. At the time the book deal got announced in August, Cuomo refused to reveal how much of an advance he received for it, saying it would be in his annual financial disclosure … which is due on May 15. It’s a safe bet that Cuomo got paid in the high six figures, at least; his previous book advance was $783,000. An early disclosure of the real numbers of nursing-home deaths would have almost certainly lost Cuomo his auto-hagiography deal, and it’s an even safer bet that his “top aides” didn’t get any participation in that advance, either.

This gives both the Department of Justice and the state legislature a very nice trail of bread crumbs that should lead them to the Chief Crumb himself. If these sources can finger these “top aides” in a cover-up, then investigators and legislators can use that to pressure these aides into either falling on the grenade themselves, or testifying as to what the governor knew and when he knew it. From what we now know about Cuomo’s managerial style and personality, does anyone think that those who form his inner circle would go to prison to protect him? Or would they see this as a perfect opportunity to settle scores and make Kathy Hochul the first woman to serve as governor of New York, albeit in an acting capacity?

Cuomo’s only hope is that the Merrick Garland-run DoJ will ignore this cover-up, and that legislators in Albany feel warmly enough toward Cuomo to let impeachment slide. He’d better start working on the resignation letter soon, in other words.