Ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is urging Attorney General Merrick Garland to look into whether any state officials, who are subjected to the Justice Department’s CCP virus nursing home probe, had engaged in obstruction of justice.
Grassley, who was joined by five other Republican senators, wrote to Garland on Monday asking him to expand a DOJ inquiry into four states that came under widespread scrutiny for their response last year to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, which may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of nursing home residents.
The states—New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan—had issued orders that required nursing homes to “admit COVID-19 patients to their vulnerable populations, often without adequate testing,” the department said in August 2020.
The DOJ requested data from the four states to assess whether to launch civil rights investigations to determine whether the state orders are responsible for the deaths of nursing home residents.
In October, the department expanded the inquiry by asking New York to hand over a breakout of hospital deaths that its health department had been collecting since at least April but not made public. At the time, Cuomo’s administration has repeatedly refused to release such nursing home data.
The DOJ also announced in the same month that it had launched a civil rights investigation into New Jersey’s state-run veteran homes.
Officials from both states have criticized the DOJ’s review as being “politically motivated.”
Grassley urged Garland in his letter to continue pursuing its investigations into the four states. He also expressed particular concern over the conduct of New York officials for the alleged “coverup” of COVID-19-related nursing home deaths in the state.
In January, New York’s attorney general issued a 76-page report (pdf) following an investigation into nursing homes’ responses during the pandemic over allegations of patient neglect and other conduct. Preliminary data from the investigation suggests that many nursing home residents had died from COVID-19 in the hospital after they were transferred from their nursing homes.
These cases were not reflected in the state’s Department of Health’s (DOH) published total nursing home death data. The attorney general office compared data from 62 nursing homes, which represents 10 percent of the total facilities in New York, reported to its office, to data reported to the DOH.
The investigation also found that some nursing homes underreported their resident deaths occurring in nursing homes by as much as 50 percent to the DOH.
A top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Melissa DeRosa, reportedly apologized for withholding information that nearly 15,000 nursing home residents died of COVID-19, much higher than the 8,500 figure previously disclosed, according to the New York Post, who obtained an audio recording of a conference call with state Democratic leaders on Feb. 11.
DeRosa also allegedly told Democrats that the administration feared the data could “be used against us” by the DOJ.
Grassley also referred to other news articles that reported allegations that the New York governor’s senior aides were involved in altering a state nursing home official’s report. The media outlets cited several anonymous sources.
“These accounts raise additional questions about whether the Cuomo administration intentionally concealed the extent of the problem facing New York’s nursing homes during the national emergency period,” Grassley wrote.
“Nursing homes remain hotspots for the coronavirus, which is why we ask that DOJ continue to diligently investigate the extent to which four states’ governors violated the civil rights of nursing home residents and failed in their duty of care.
“We also ask that you investigate whether any such state directives were inconsistent with guidelines or requirements for participation in Federal programs and determine whether there was a coverup or obstruction of justice by public officials who were the subject of DOJ’s investigations,” he added.
Other senators who also signed the letter include Sens. Steve Scalise (R-La.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).
The DOJ did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.