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Law360 (May 6, 2021, 9:04 PM EDT) -- A group of Republican U.S. senators on Wednesday called for a congressional probe of embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo over his alleged undercounting of nursing home deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, the GOP lawmakers urged that an investigation be opened and a hearing be held into the "horrifying and unacceptable" purported cover-up of the number of nursing home residents who died because of COVID-19.
The letter was signed by Sens Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; John Thune, R-South Dakota; Tim Scott, R-South Carolina; John Barrasso, R-Wyoming; and James Lankford, R-Oklahoma.
In remarks to reporters on Wednesday, Cuomo, a Democrat, dismissed the call for an investigation as Republicans playing politics, saying they had politicized the COVID-19 pandemic since the beginning.
"They were in denial of COVID," Cuomo said. "You had the president of the United States who said it wasn't a problem. It was going to go away. We're going to reopen by April. He wanted to blame the Democratic governors for COVID."
In the letter, the Republican lawmakers point to an April 28 article in the New York Times that claimed the alleged effort by the Cuomo administration to obscure the death toll in New York nursing homes was far greater than previously known and that aides repeatedly blocked state health officials, over a period of at least five months, from releasing the true death toll.
In January, New York Attorney General Letitia James accused the state Health Department of undercounting COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50%. The report faulted poor infection controls and understaffing as the pandemic ravaged the frail and elderly.
The senators' letter said: "We ask that you open an investigation and hold a committee hearing on New York's cover-up of nursing home deaths. Transparency and accountability are not partisan aims and must be taken seriously by this committee."
Cuomo adviser Richard Azzopardi told Law360 the GOP senators' bid for an investigation is an "unserious political charade."
The three-term New York governor has also come under fire in recent months after several women accused him of unwanted sexual behavior including inappropriate comments, kissing and touching. Three of the women claim Cuomo kissed them without their consent, and another said he groped her at his executive mansion.
Cuomo has denied that he engaged in any sexual misconduct.
James has has tapped former acting U.S Attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon H. Kim, now of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, and employment discrimination attorney Anne L. Clark of Vladeck Raskin & Clark PC to investigate claims of sexual harassment against Cuomo.
Republican lawmakers have previously asked both the Department of Justice and the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate allegations that Cuomo and his aides concealed data about nursing home deaths related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cuomo is also the subject of an impeachment investigation by the New York State Assembly into allegations of misconduct, including claims of sexual harassment and his handling of nursing home deaths during the pandemic. The probe is being handled by attorneys from Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP.
Numerous state and federal lawmakers in New York have called for Cuomo's resignation.
Cuomo and his "executive chamber," which includes all members of the staff who worked on issues related to the pandemic, are represented by Elkan Abramowitz of Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello PC. Rita Glavin of Glavin PLLC is representing Cuomo in his personal capacity in matters concerning alleged sexual misconduct.
--Additional reporting by Frank G. Runyeon. Editing by Peter Rozovsky.
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