The deliberate dismantling of Donald Trump’s political legacy in the service of what his detractors hope will be eventual complete historical erasure now includes an astonishing rejection from the Department of Justice. This week the DOJ announced it is dropping an investigation opened during Trump’s administration into the thousands of tragic and unnecessary nursing home deaths during the pandemic under blue state governors from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. The news came as a shock to the many families whose parents and grandparents lost their lives because of disastrous lockdown leadership.
But it was no surprise to Janice Dean, a meteorologist from FOX News who lost her in-laws when Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York made the fateful decision to allow COVID-positive patients discharged from hospitals to be admitted to nursing homes. It was a recipe for death among the elderly and most vulnerable. Dean leveled pointed criticisms against the Governor in the fall of 2020 and led the fight to widely disseminate the news and have the investigation opened. Former Attorney General William Barr saw good cause and responded by requesting information from New York and other states regarding nursing home deaths. But the Empire State never provided the requested data, and Cuomo complained of the investigation being politically motivated.
Partisan victimization couldn’t change the writ-large tragedy that unfolded under the feckless leadership of Cuomo and the other governors who took his lead on nursing homes. After obfuscating the truth and purposely diminishing the numbers, it was revealed that over 15,000 elderly New Yorkers died because of Cuomo’s unfathomable decision. The “Luv Guv’s” star had risen dramatically in the early months of the pandemic but fell out of the sky when the nursing home scandal broke slowly across the national news. Mainstream media had seemed reluctant to criticize the man many felt could be an eleventh-hour shoo-in for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination last year. But that changed as news of a cover-up began to break. After Deputy Assistant Attorney General Joe Gaeta issued the statement that the DOJ would not pursue any nursing home investigations at this time, Steve Scalise (R-LA) released his own prepared statement:
“Where is the justice for nursing home victims and their grieving families? These deadly orders contradicted the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] guidance and needlessly endangered the most vulnerable among us to the deadly COVID-19 virus. 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.”
The DOJ didn’t offer any reason for ending the investigation. Janice Dean expressed the anguish felt by the many families who had lost a loved one to Cuomo’s nursing home directive – only to suffer a further wound at the decision of Merrick Garland’s Justice Department to decline an investigation. She wrote that it was “a terrible day for thousands of families,” adding, “there will be no justice for our loved ones, and it feels like we’ve lost them all over again.”
Cuomo dodged the bullet and took a tone-deaf victory lap at the news of the DOJ decision – failing to remember exulting about avoiding blame for the deaths of over 15,000 isn’t a great look for a leader. The governor must still face down a report from his AG, Letitia James, as well as a further investigation explicitly focused on the alleged cover-up, but Cuomo has shown mettle as a political survivalist. He appears to have successfully sidestepped responsibility for the nursing home debacle – for now. No matter what happens, the deaths of those many thousands was a terrible loss. And there is something deeply unsettling about what this decision suggests regarding the dispensability of our elderly. Would the matter have been sidestepped had these myriad deaths been among those under 50? What if they were children under 18? And now, with this investigation dropped by the DOJ, who will speak for the dead?