ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration has released a full transcript of the telephone meeting between aides and legislators that has left him bogged in a mire of criticism for nearly a week.
It clocks in at more than 22,000 words and will likely be debated and dissected thoroughly in the coming days.
The transcript, if accurate, does not seem to offer any new support for the idea that top gubernatorial staffer Melissa DeRosa told legislators that records were withheld in an attempt to interfere with a U.S. Department of Justice probe. That allegation has been at the center of the most vitriolic claims made against Cuomo in recent days.
Relevant mentions of the DOJ and similar terms seem to be limited to a single exchange — an excerpt of which was included in the New York Post’s report last week— in which DeRosa says there was concern that if nursing home data were shared with the federal government, it would “be used against us.” Taken as a whole, however, that exchange can be easily read as though DeRosa was concerned about the data being used against them by President Donald Trump and his Twitter feed, rather than federal investigators. In fact, she quickly added that the administration had cooperated with the DOJ probe:
DeRosa: The letter [from the Legislature requesting nursing home data] comes in at the end of August and right around the same time, President Trump turns this into a giant political football. He starts tweeting that we killed everyone in nursing homes, he starts going after Murphy, starts going after Newsom, starts going after Gretchen Whitmer.
He directs the Department of Justice to do an investigation into us. He finds one person at DOJ, who since has been fired because this person is now known to be a political hack, who sends letters out to all of these different governors. And basically, we froze, because then we were in a position where we weren’t sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice or what we give to you guys, what we start saying was going to be used against us while we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation.
That played a very large role into this. We went to the leaders and we said to the leaders, can we please pause on getting back to everybody until we get through this period and we know what’s what with the DOJ. We since have come through that period. All signs point to, they are not looking at this. They dropped it. They never formally opened an investigation. They sent a letter asking a number of questions and then we satisfied those questions and it appears that they’re gone. But that was how it was happening back in August.
It’s also worth noting that despite the acrimony of recent days, the meeting seems to have ended on a pleasant note:
DeRosa: Anything else? I mean obviously, this is not the end of the conversation. This is more like the beginning, but for now, is there anything else?
Sen. James Skoufis: I just want to say that I have found this — I’ve been doing this for nine years, third year in the Senate, and I have found this really refreshing. And I am being perfectly honest — I have just not felt in nine years, sort of the, this sort of opportunity to have an honest and straightforward conversation where I’ve felt that, you know, you all weren’t just reading from a script or trying to dance around questions. I feel really good about what happened tonight, and maybe I’m speaking out of school with my colleagues still on the Zoom here, but I just ask, like, can this please be the standard? This in my mind is how it is supposed to work. I think in my mind, we were brutally honest at times and you were forthright and when you didn’t like what we were doing, you let us know that and you, I think, you genuinely answered most, if not all, of our questions to the extent that you could. So, I just ask that this be the standard, that’s all.
Health Commissioner Howard Zucker: Thank you.
DeRosa: You have my word. Look, I know the position that you guys have been put in with some of this and I know that more than anything, it’s just that the press comes to you and your constituents come to you … you have to be able to have answers … I really appreciate, for the most part, that the Legislature has been supportive throughout this process. It’s been really been hard for all of us, we’re all just trying to do the right thing, but I want to continue this dialogue in whatever format makes sense. You know, I defer to your leadership obviously, but I’m here, I will make the time. The people around this table will make the time and we’re happy to continue this.
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