Elise Stefanik Blasts DOJ for Dropping Civil Rights Probe Into Cuomo Over Nursing Home Deaths

Representative Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican, took aim at President Joe Biden and his Department of Justice after it decided to drop a probe into COVID-19 nursing home deaths that occurred after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered nursing homes to accept "medically stable" COVID-19 patients last spring.

Cuomo, a Democrat, has faced substantial backlash from progressive lawmakers and Republicans in New York due to the thousands of deaths that occured in nursing homes at the outset of the pandemic in 2020. The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division launched a probe into the deaths last August, while former President Donald Trump remained in office.

However, the federal agency notified lawmakers on Friday that an investigation would not move forward.

"This decision from President Biden's Department of Justice makes President Biden complicit in the criminal corruption scandal and coverup of deaths of thousands of vulnerable seniors," Stefanik, the chair of the House Republican Conference, said in a Friday statement. "New Yorkers deserve answers and accountability. I was the first member of Congress to call for an investigation into Governor Cuomo's corrupt criminal coverup and I will continue to fight for the families who lost loved ones because of the cruelty and corruption of our Governor."

Elise Stefanik
House Republican Conference Chair Representative Elise Stefanik (R-New York) slammed the Justice Department for not moving forward with a Civil Rights investigation into COVID-19 nursing home deaths in New York. In this photo, Stefanik speaks during a news conference with members of the GOP Doctors Caucus on June 24 in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The GOP congresswoman called on the Justice Department's Inspector General "to look into this matter. What did Governor Cuomo promise President Joe Biden in his White House meeting? And how can the DOJ not investigate such a blatantly criminal coverup?"

Representative Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican who serves as the House Minority Whip, called the DOJ decision "outrageous."

"Even worse, Governor Cuomo in New York intentionally tried to cover up the true death toll resulting from his mandate. Grieving families deserve answers and accountability. It's unconscionable that Biden's Department of Justice refuses to investigate the deadly actions that went against CDC's medical guidance taken in these states," Scalise said.

Ron T. Kim, a progressive Democrat and member of the New York State Assembly, raised concerns about the system that he views as protecting Cuomo from repercussions.

"These past few months reflect a deeply broken & ageist system designed to protect politicians who put profits over people's lives," Kim tweeted on Saturday. "We must hold Cuomo accountable for his misdeeds to restore public trust."

These past few months reflect a deeply broken & ageist system designed to protect politicians who put profits over people’s lives.

We must hold Cuomo accountable for his misdeeds to restore public trust.

— Ron T. Kim (@rontkim) July 24, 2021

Representative Lee Zeldin, a New York Republican, also criticized the DOJ's decision.

"The DOJ's decision today to turn a blind eye to facts, victims & public interest regarding Cuomo's deadly nursing home order & cover up is yet another gift to a corrupt governor..." he tweeted.

The DOJ’s decision today to turn a blind eye to facts, victims & public interest regarding Cuomo’s deadly nursing home order & cover up is yet another gift to a corrupt governor who has already scored himself a $5.1M self-congratulatory book deal & ridiculous Emmy Award.👎

— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) July 24, 2021

According to The New York Times, New York leads all U.S. states in its number of nursing home resident and employee deaths—with more than 15,000 in total. In the spring of 2020, as Cuomo used his emergency powers to address the surging pandemic, his administration ordered nursing homes in New York to accept stable COVID-19 patients. Critics argue this decision led to large outbreaks within the highly vulnerable populations in those facilities, saying the governor should be held responsible.

The Cuomo administration later appeared to attempt to cover up the total number of deaths in nursing homes as Republican and progressive Democrats demanded answers. Many called for Cuomo's resignation over the revelations, but the governor has denied culpability and dismissed those demands.

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.