The administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) has been accused of obstructing the release of information about COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes in order to avoid a Federal investigation. The cover-up is now the reported preliminary inquiry by the office of Acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme. Fair Use Screenshot of Gov. Cuomo (YouTube) ; Public Domain portrait of Acting U.S. Attorney DuCharme (U.S. Dept. Of Justice)

U.S. Attorney’s Office, which argued that the Government could comply with records requests at their discretion, to probe Cuomo over COVID-19 nursing home deaths cover-up

Brooklyn Acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme, a Trump appointee who was assigned the Cuomo probe, has already been requested to step down by President Joseph Biden.

By Progress New York Staff

Updated 22 Feb 2021 10:00 The U.S. Attorney’s Office for New York’s eastern district, which was reportedly assigned the probe into the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing homes during the Coronavirus pandemic, has previously defended the Government’s violation of open records requests, records show. In prior litigation with the publisher of the predecessor online publication to Progress New York, then Assistant U.S. Attorney Rukhsanah Singh argued that the Government could make releases of records “in its discretion,” according to the memorandum filed the U.S. Attorney’s Office, seeking at that time then summary judgment dismissal of an open records lawsuit filed against the U.S. Department of Justice. That posturing may inform the Federal investigation into the Cuomo administration’s withholding of information.

A critical accusation facing Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) is that his administration deliberately participated in a cover-up of COVID-19 deaths of nursing home patients out of fear that the evidence would “be used against” his administration by Federal prosecutors, according to a report published by the New York Post. The information about the number of Coronavirus fatalities had been the object of a civil rights request made by the U.S. Department of Justice ; the subject of an open records request filed by the watchdog group, the Empire Center, and an issue of intense media interest.

Acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme was named as the top Federal prosecutor in Brooklyn by then U.S. Attorney General William Barr in July 2020. He, and other Trump administration appointments to senior Justice Department posts, were asked by the Biden administration to step down on Feb. 9, according to a report published by the Washington Post.

It’s unknown for how much longer Acting U.S. Attorney DuCharme will head the Brooklyn Federal prosecutors’ office. For this report, the press office servicing Acting U.S. Attorney DuCharme did not answer multiple media requests.

Already, Republicans in the U.S. Senate plan to question Attorney General nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, on his commitment to investigate and prosecute any violations of the law, according to a report published by the New York Post.

The U.S. Department of Justice has a role in making people lose faith in the Government.

It’s typically the Manhattan Federal prosecutors’ office, which seizes jurisdiction over the most complex civil and criminal investigations in New York — sometimes in the entire Nation. However, the top Federal prosecutor in Manhattan, U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss, is related to Gov. Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, who made the stunning admission that a cover-up existed within the Cuomo administration. In the past, the office of U.S. Attorney Strauss has also argued in open records litigation commenced by the predecessor online publication to Progress New York that the Government has the right to litigate its failure to comply with transparency laws. During that litigation, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebecca Tinio admitted in a brief supporting her summary judgment motion that the Government closed the underlying open records request prior to litigation and began to produce records after litigation had commenced. The top Agency that is sued to compel compliance with Federal open records laws is the U.S. Department of Justice, according to statistics maintained by the FOIA Project.

According to long-established case law, the Federal open records law was created to “ensure an informed citizenry, vital to the functioning of a democratic society, needed to check against corruption and to hold the governors accountable to the governed.” See NLRB v. Robbins Tire & Rubber Co., 437 U.S. 214, 242 (1978). State open records laws, and its corresponding jurisprudence, follow their Federal counterpart.

Given the history of corruption scandals that have rocked the Cuomo administration since it’s inception, the fact that Gov. Cuomo was obviously withholding information should have been a warning flag. But no action ever took place, despite numerous reports that there were omissions in the number of reported nursing home deaths in New York, including in one report broadcast on May 1, 2020, by the NY1 cable news channel. Reportedly, it was not until news broke about Ms. DeRosa’s startling admission that the Brooklyn Federal prosecutors’ office began its preliminary inquiry. As reported by the New York Times, the Brooklyn investigation was “in its earliest stages.”

Despite how Federal authorities appear to be aligned with the Cuomo administration in violating transparency laws, John Daukas, the former Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice during the Trump administration, wrote an editorial for the Wall Street Journal, describing the situation facing the Cuomo administration as “serious, perhaps meriting federal criminal charges.” It’s not known if Mr. Daukas was being principled, or merely partisan.

Gov. Cuomo has triggered legal controversies since the inception of his tenure as governor. His first year was rocked by scrutiny of a nonprofit political arm, the Committee to Save New York, which triggered pay-to-play accusations, including over his support of the gambling industry. The nonprofit paid for, amongst other expenses, the airing of TV commercials that helped to influence news coverage and public support for a big business agenda. Later, Gov. Cuomo came under fire for allegedly interfering with, and then prematurely shuttering, an anti-corruption commission he formed, according to a bombshell report published by the New York Times. Another corruption scandal erupted over Gov. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic development programme. During this time, Gov. Cuomo’s closest political advisor, Joseph Percoco, the then Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Lower East Side), and the then Sen. Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), were charged, tried, and convicted of unrelated corruption crimes.

Gov. Cuomo revealed that he expected Elected officials within the Democratic Party to have a non-aggression pact with each other.

In a recounting of a private telephone call between Gov. Cuomo and one of his chief critics, Assemblymember Ron Kim (D-Queens), on the evening that news broke about the cover-up, Gov. Cuomo reportedly told Assemblymember Kim, “We’re in this business together, and we don’t cross certain lines,” according to a report broadcast by the CNN cable news channel. Because Assemblymember Kim had been publicly critical of Gov. Cuomo, Assemblymember Kim alleged that Gov. Cuomo threatened him. “He said I hadn’t seen his wrath and that he can destroy me,” Assemblymember Kim said for the CNN report.

In the past, Gov. Cuomo has faced accusations of interfering with investigations and retaliation. During the investigation into the premature closure of the anti-corruption commission, Gov. Cuomo was warned to stop contacting witnesses during an active investigation. During the reported Buffalo Billion investigation, Gov. Cuomo hired a former Federal prosecutor to conduct his own investigation, which also drew the ire of Federal law enforcement. After a former top economic aide, Lindsey Boylan, accused Gov. Cuomo of sexual harassment, her personnel records were leaked, and her communications consultant quit on her, according to a report published by the New York Daily News.

Gov. Cuomo faced criticism in the New Yorker magazine that he had politicised the Government’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic. The conservative magazine, the National Review, published a media analysis, raising the spectre that public doubts about Government narratives drive the public to “seek out alternate sources of information that are even less factual and more misleading than the mainstream press.”

Notwithstanding, the public have a right to exhibit some skepticism of Government narratives and of the mainstream media. The Government routinely violates open records requests, and mainstream journalists recently celebrated the death of the spindoktor, Howard Rubenstein, who many journalists acknowledged had successfully earned favourable press for troubled clients, such as Donald J. TrumpLeona Helmsley, and Rupert Murdoch, in exchange for handsome profits.

After Mr. Rubenstein’s passing, Gov. Cuomo, surely a client now in need, mourned his passing, noting, in relevant part, that, “Both my father and I were lucky to have his friendship, as were so many others.”

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