The Nation’s top Federal prosecutor in Manhattan is related to the political figure at the centre of a scandal involving allegations of obstruction of justice.
By Progress New York Staff
Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney for New York’s southern district, is the mother-in-law to Melissa DeRosa, who was the subject of a report published last week in which Ms. DeRosa admitted to deliberately participating in a cover-up of the true number of COVID-19 fatalities in New York State nursing homes out of fear that the truth would “be used against us” by prosecutors from the U.S. Department of Justice. Ms. DeRosa is the top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), whose administration has been rocked by a new round of allegations of “obstruction of justice” accusations.
The office of U.S. Attorney Strauss generally seizes jurisdiction over the most complex civil and criminal cases in the entire State of New York — sometimes in the Nation — but her office has remained mum after her daughter-in-law triggered a political scandal that threatens to become a legal scandal. For this report, the office of U.S. Attorney Strauss has refused to respond to a series of media requests.
For months, the Cuomo administration delayed the release of information about nursing home deaths that had been requested by the media and by at least one watchdog group, the Empire Center. The release of information that approximately doubled the reported Coronavirus deaths of nursing home patients followed a stinging report issued by the office of State Attorney General Letitia James (D-NY). In response, Gov. Cuomo has vowed to “destroy” a vocal critic of his administration’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic in nursing homes, according to a report published by the New York Times.
Gov. Cuomo’s alleged obstruction of justice stems from violations of open records laws. Various U.S. Attorneys’ Offices have, in the past, defended the Government’s ability to comply with open records request at their sole discretion, in violation of the law.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for New York’s southern district has, in the past, argued that the Government can litigate its failure to comply with open records laws. Its Brooklyn counterpart has gone one step further, arguing that the Government can comply with open records requests at their sole discretion. As a result, it’s unknown how Federal prosecutors will hold Gov. Cuomo accountable for obstruction of justice when Federal prosecutors engage in the same or similar behaviour.
This is not the first time when the Cuomo administration has faced accusations of obstruction of justice. Gov. Cuomo last faced identical allegations in the wake of the premature shuttering of the Moreland Commission in 2014. However, then U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara concluded his investigation of Gov. Cuomo’s reported hobbling of the Moreland Commission by making a rare public declaration in 2016 that there would be no pressing of Federal criminal charges.
There is already chatter that U.S. Attorney Strauss will be replaced.
In the face of U.S. Attorney Strauss’ private countenancing of a scandal unleashed by the admission by her daughter-in-law, the administration of President Joseph Biden (D) has begun to telegraph his intention to replace U.S. Attorney Strauss. Generally, new presidential administrations trigger a request for the wholesale resignation of top Federal prosecutors across the Nation, so that a new administration can reward supporters or donors with prestigious jobs within the U.S. Department of Justice. Last week, the Biden administration made the request for wholesale resignations of U.S. Attorneys, according to a report published by the Washington Post.
It’s impossible to credit U.S. Attorney Strauss with scrutiny brought to bear on possible cases of political or campaign corruption, due to the refusal of her office to answer the media requests made by Progress New York. The office of U.S. Attorney Strauss has received criticism for its countenancing of allegations of civil rights violations.
Three leading contenders to replace Mrs. Strauss as the top Federal prosecutor in Manhattan include Damian Williams, the chief of a Federal prosecutors’ Wall Street fraud task force, and two former chiefs of the same task force, Katherine Goldstein and Anjan Sahni, according to reports published by Law360 and Bloomberg Law. Former U.S. Attorney Bharara has access to advise Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) in the making of a possible nomination, according to the Law360 report.
- Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss mum as State Attorney General Letitia James seizes moral authority to sue the NYPD over Constitutional rights violations [Progress New York]
- Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa admits they hid nursing home data so Feds wouldn’t find out [The New York Post]
- Democrats accuse Cuomo of ‘obstruction of justice’ over nursing home scandal [The New York Post]
- Cuomo Vowed to ‘Destroy’ a Fellow Democrat Over Nursing Home Criticism [The New York Times]
- U.S. Attorney Warns Cuomo on Moreland Commission Case [The New York Times]