NYS GOP leader says Gov. Cuomo should be impeached over nursing home death data | WHEC.com

NYS GOP leader says Gov. Cuomo should be impeached over nursing home death data

Berkeley Brean
Updated: February 18, 2021 06:49 PM
Created: February 18, 2021 06:46 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The head of the Republican Party in New York says Gov. Andrew Cuomo should be impeached over his handling of nursing home deaths.

Nick Langworthy says the governor obstructed justice when he did not deliver nursing home and COVID data requested by the State Legislature seven months ago. 

Nick Langworthy, Chair, NYS Republican Party: "Andrew Cuomo is unfit to continue his service as governor of the state of New York. I and many others have called for impeachment articles to be drafted."

That's part of what Langworthy said in Albany Thursday morning. He repeated it in front of the federal building in Rochester Thursday afternoon. 

Brean: "What is the impeachable offense?"

Langworthy: "Obstruction of justice at the forefront. But subpoenas need to fly here."

Brean: "Can a governor of New York be impeached? Is that possible?"

Chris Bopst, state constitution expert: "Yes, a governor can be impeached under New York law."

Chris Bopst is a lawyer in Buffalo and an expert on the New York State constitution. 

Only one governor has ever been impeached before. It was Gov. William Sulzer in 1913. It was a campaign finance case.  

Bopst says impeachment is slightly different in New York than in Washington D.C. 

Similar to Washington, an article of impeachment would start in the State Assembly. 

The trial is in front of the state senate and the seven justices of the court of appeals. 

Bopst: "Unlike federal practice, under New York State law when a governor is impeached the Lt. governor acts as the acting governor during the impeachment trial."

Right now that's Kathy Hochul. 

Democrats have a super majority in the assembly. 

So impeachment? 

Bopst: "I don't think it's going to happen."

In late summer, the U.S. Department of Justice and the state legislature asked for data on nursing home deaths. 

The governor's office says it delivered the information to the DOJ. 

But it didn't share the information with state lawmakers or you until the state attorney general's critical report in January which concluded the administration may have under reported nursing home deaths by half.

Monday, the governor said not answering questions caused confusion and was wrong. 

"We didn't answer every question so it allowed the void to be created the void begets disinformation the disinformation begets pain of people. I take responsibility for that," Gov. Cuomo said. 

Brean: "Do you buy the governor's explanation that they were trying to..."

Nick Langworthy, Chair, NYS Republican Party: "No."

Brean: "Why not?" 

Langworthy: "No because I think he's been dishonest with the entirety. I mean, he got caught." 

Late Thursday, the state democratic party released a statement beginning, "The NYS Republican Assembly leadership call for Governor Cuomo's impeachment less than a week after their Party's failure to support impeachment & conviction for Donald Trump defies credulity.  To be clear, Governor Cuomo is accused of failing to timely release data on deaths that occurred in nursing homes.  No matter how one looks at it, not one more person lost their life because of any delay in statistical reporting after the fact and not one more person contracted COVID-19.  Moreover, there isn't a shred of criminality and the Republicans know it."

Wednesday, the Albany Times Union reported the the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn and the FBI are investigating the handling of nursing home information. I called the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York to see if it has a similar case. The spokeswoman for J.P. Kennedy said the office policy is to neither confirm or deny the existence of an investigation. 

We asked many of our local state lawmakers if they support a federal investigation and an investigation by the state legislature. 

Assemblyman Demond Meeks (D, 137) said, "If there are outside entities that feel the need to investigate, so be it. But as it relates to the legislature there is major work before us. There's housing disparity. There's housing insecurity. There's food insecurities."

Here are the statements from other local state lawmakers: 

Assemblywoman Sarah Clark (D, 136): “When it comes to our nursing homes and long term care facilities, our primary focus needs to be understanding exactly what happened. A thorough review exploring the impact of state policies and facility practices during the COVID crisis will help us clarify what needs to be fixed. Whether this information comes through an investigation by the Attorney General, or by hearings conducted in the state legislature, New Yorkers deserve the truth. Transparency and protecting our seniors has always been my sole focus on this matter.”

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, 139):

Q: Do you support a U.S. Attorney investigation into the issue?
A: I support any measure that will help New Yorkers get to the bottom of this tragic situation. The more information that comes out, the more it appears that the governor and his administration engaged in, at the very least, dishonest and deceptive practices when reporting numbers on our state’s nursing home deaths. I think the fact that it has been reported that the U.S. Attorney and the FBI have begun looking into the governor’s actions is a step in the direction of justice and an absolute necessity in finding answers for the victims of the governor’s dastardly behavior.

Q: Do you support an investigation run by the NYS Legislature?
A: The NYS Legislature absolutely must launch an investigation, in addition to that of the federal authorities. We were elected to represent the voice of the people and to constrain the ability of the executive branch of government to run roughshod over our state. I hope leadership in both the state Senate and Assembly can come together to do our due diligence and demand answers to the tough questions from Gov. Cuomo and his administration. I believe we need to appoint an Independent Prosecutor to conduct a thorough and exhaustive investigation. They owe it to the families of the more than 15,000 victims of their inexcusable policies.

Assemblyman Brian Manktelow (R, 130): “I definitely support an investigation into the governor and his administration’s handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes from both the U.S. Attorney and the NYS Legislature. The families who lost loved ones deserve to know the truth. Withholding numbers and lying about it to cover up his mistakes is just a slap in the fact to these families. The federal government and the FBI bring a non-biased and fresh set of eyes to this issue, which will be beneficial to the investigation. As elected officials, we owe it to the people we represent to also look into this and provide them with answers. The people of New York deserve better than a governor who is more interested in protecting himself than the people he claims to serve.”

Sen. Samra Brouk (D, 55)'s office: "The Senate will certainly have a role in looking into the actions of the governor and the data around COVID-19 nursing home deaths, and we will be hosting a hearing next week where the administration and Dr. Zucker are expected to testify. We look forward to learning more then."

Assemblyman Harry Bronson (D, 138):

“I want to reiterate my appreciation to Attorney General James on conducting an initial, comprehensive review of all deaths of our loved ones in nursing homes or hospitals. My belief is that Attorney General James has followed the facts and not the politics of this investigation. I welcome the U.S Attorney and the F.B.I joining that investigative effort, and look forward to the results of their impartial, unbiased investigation into the matter."

"I have introduced a bill, A1010, that would require all residential health care facilities to publicly report results of all state inspections; while A1052B allows for families to reunite with their loved ones in nursing home facilities. Both bills will offer additional transparency into the operations of our residential health care facilities."

"The legislature is already at work drafting policies and legislation that will protect our seniors who are living in nursing or assisted residential facilities as a result of the AG report. I believe that my legislation will bring much needed transparency to our nursing home facilities, while a US attorney inquiry will hopefully give us the answers we need free from political influence and motivations.”

Assemblyman Josh Jensen (R, 134): 

Q: Do you support a U.S. Attorney investigation into the issue?

A: According to news sources, there's already an investigation taking place. If the FBI and U.S. Attorney's office believes there is criminality, I support law enforcement doing it's job and answering the questions that our constituents are raising. 

Q: Do you support an investigation run by the NYS Legislature?

A: I fully support an investigation run by the Legislature. The lack of transparency and accountability regarding our state’s handling of COVID-19 in our nursing homes and residential-care facilities has been frustrating and caused tremendous pain to those who have had family members who have passed away, often in isolation. Additionally, last week’s New York Post article which revealed that the administration purposely withheld information and data from lawmakers and the public out of fear of a federal investigation made it evidently clear we need an independent, impartial and objective analysis of the entire situation. This is not about politics, it's about getting answers for our fellow New Yorkers who lost loved ones in nursing homes or residential-care facilities. 

Sen. Jeremy Cooney (D, 56) says the federal investigation should "play out" and he supports the legislature investigating to "find out what information was withheld." Cooney said any investigation should be "focused on the truth and answering questions of the people who care calling our offices."

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