Andrew Cuomo subpoenaed by congressional subcommittee investigating COVID-era handling of nursing homes

The ex-governor was at one point hailed for his leadership during the pandemic.

March 5, 2024, 3:22 PM

The House subcommittee tasked with investigating the nation's response to the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday subpoenaed former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in relation to his administration's handling of nursing homes during the pandemic, according to documents first obtained by ABC News.

Specifically, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic is seeking to question Cuomo about one of his administration's most controversial COVID-era directives: instructing nursing homes to admit recovering COVID-positive patients from hospitals, a move that has faced criticism that it led to increased deaths in nursing homes.

The subpoena and letter from the Republican-led subcommittee is the latest development for the former New York governor, who has faced intense scrutiny into his administration's handling of nursing homes during the pandemic. In 2021, ABC News reported that federal prosecutors in Brooklyn were investigating Cuomo's coronavirus task force with a focus on nursing homes. No charges were brought.

"Accordingly, attached to this letter please find a subpoena for you to appear for a deposition," Tuesday's letter states.

The subpoena was signed by Republican Rep. James Comer, the chairman of the Oversight Committee, which authorizes the subcommittee to issue subpoenas. It requests a May 24 deposition in Washington.

Cuomo, who was at one point heralded for his leadership during the pandemic and became known for his daily briefings, has defended the March 2020 directive, which he reversed weeks later. He said it was based squarely on federal guidelines and accused those investigating the issue of "playing politics."

In a statement on Tuesday, Cuomo's spokesperson said the subpoena was "an obvious press charade" and said that Congress is "play[ing] politics with Covid and weaponiz[ing] people's pain and loss of loves ones."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo prepares to board a helicopter after announcing his resignation, Aug. 10, 2021, in New York.
Seth Wenig/AP

"The simple fact remains that this issue has been reviewed three times by the Department of Justice under Trump and Biden, as well as Congress and the Manhattan District Attorney who found no there there," Cuomo's spokesperson, Rich Azzopardi, said in a statement to ABC News. "New York followed the guidance put forth by the Trump administration in March of 2020 -- as did other Democratic and Republican states. If they have a problem with that, they should look in the mirror. Congress knows this, but it's not about the facts, this is about politics."

In the seven-page letter to Cuomo that accompanied Tuesday's subpoena, the committee said his testimony was "vital" as the panel continues it to investigate "the effectiveness of federal guidance and regulations" that were implemented during the pandemic.

The committee, chaired by Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup, in its letter directly linked what it called Cuomo's "misguided decision" to "predictable but deadly consequences" in nursing homes, and referenced "troubling evidence" that Cuomo's administration "at best downplayed its impacts and at worst covered them up."

"Former Governor Cuomo owes answers to the 15,000 families who lost loved ones in New York nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Chairman Wenstrup in a statement. "His testimony is crucial to uncover the circumstances that led to his misguided policies and for ensuring that fatal mistakes never happen again."

A New York State Department of Health report that analyzed the effects of the directive found it "could not be the driver" of cases or deaths in nursing homes. An impeachment investigation into Cuomo later found that report had been "substantially revised by the Executive Chamber and largely intended to combat criticisms" about the directive.

Cuomo has also come under fire for allegedly misreporting the number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. In early 2021, a report from New York State Attorney General Letitia James found that COVID deaths in New York state had been "undercounted" by as much as 50%.

Cuomo later said he "took responsibility" and that "we should have provided more information faster."

The subpoena for Cuomo's interview with the committee came after months of correspondence with his attorney in an effort to schedule a voluntary interview, which the committee alleges in the letter was an attempt by Cuomo to "delay and undermine our investigation." The letter lays out dozens of emails and multiple meetings between Cuomo's attorney and subcommittee staff throughout December, January, and February, culminating in Cuomo's attorney saying he would be available in August.

"You have repeatedly and consistently dismissed, deflected, or ignored all questions and requests from the Select Subcommittee related to your handling of nursing homes," the letter said. "Your unwillingness to seriously cooperate with our requests and to negotiate a reasonable date to participate in a transcribed interview has unjustifiably delayed our investigation. This is unacceptable."

Azzopardi, the Cuomo spokesperson, disputed that characterization, saying that Cuomo's lawyer provided dates for an interview two weeks ago "and even offered to have any questions answered in writing prior to it."

In a letter Cuomo's attorney Rita Galvin sent to the subcommittee Tuesday night, she said she had previously provided multiple dates for an August interview but never heard back until Tuesday. As such, she urged the subcommittee to "reconsider issuing a subpoena."

"To be clear, Governor Cuomo has been and remains cooperative," Glavin said in a letter to the committee, a copy of which was obtained by ABC News.

"Governor Cuomo has been entirely cooperative, agreed to a transcribed interview and provided four dates for that interview two weeks ago -- which the subcommittee even agreed could be in New York," Glavin said in a statement to ABC News. "There was no need for a subpoena, and they know it."

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic was formed in 2020.

ABC News' Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.