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Cuomo faces new allegations of covering up nursing home deaths

A top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told Democratic lawmakers that the administration rebuffed their request for data on coronavirus deaths in nursing homes because they feared it would "be used against us" by federal investigators egged on by then-President Trump, according to a leaked tape obtained by the New York Post.

Why it matters: Cuomo has been under fire for his handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes early in the pandemic. He's now facing new allegations of his administration actively withholding data on coronavirus deaths in nursing homes in order to delay potential investigations.


  • New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, released a report two weeks ago accusing the Cuomo administration of undercounting coronavirus deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50%.
  • Cuomo dismissed the report, arguing it doesn't matter where the patients died: “Who cares [if they] died in the hospital, died in a nursing home? They died.”

Driving the news: “[Trump] starts tweeting that we killed everyone in nursing homes,” secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa reportedly told lawmakers on the call, noting that the president directed the Justice Department to investigate. “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.”
  • DeRosa later attempted to clarify her remarks by arguing that the Cuomo administration wasn't hiding information altogether, but rather had multiple requests for the same data and was attempting to send them in proper order, the New York Times reports.

What they're saying: Cuomo is facing calls for accountability from both Republicans and Democrats in New York.

  • New York Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt (R) tweeted: "Governor Cuomo and his administration must be investigated from top to bottom and he must be stripped of his emergency powers."
  • New York State Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D) tweeted: "This is a betrayal of the public trust. There needs to be full accountability for what happened, and the legislature needs to reconsider its broad grant of emergency powers to the governor."
  • New York State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (D) tweeted: "You’re only sorry that you all got caught. Because of your decisions, thousands of people died who did not have to die. We’re not “offended”, Melissa, we’re furious - with extremely good reason."

Report: U.S. urges UN-led Afghan peace talks and warns of Taliban "territorial gain" threat

Secretary of State Antony Blinken proposed in a letter to President Ashraf Ghani steps including a UN-facilitated summit to revive stalled peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, Afghanistan's TOLOnews first reported Sunday.

Why it matters: Blinken expresses concern in the letter, also obtained by Western news outlets, of a potential "spring offensive by the Taliban" and that the "security situation will worsen and the Taliban could make rapid territorial gain" after an American military withdrawal, even with the continuation of U.S. financial aid.

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Harry and Meghan accuse British royal family of racism

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle delivered a devastating indictment of the U.K. royal family in their conservation with Oprah Winfey: Both said unnamed relatives had expressed concern about what the skin tone of their baby would be. And they accused "the firm" of character assassination and "perpetuating falsehoods."

Why it matters: An institution that thrives on myth now faces harsh reality. The explosive two-hour interview gave an unprecedented, unsparing window into the monarchy: Harry said his father and brother "are trapped," and Markle revealed that the the misery of being a working royal drove her to thoughts of suicide.

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Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has taken the coronavirus vaccine

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tells "Axios on HBO" that he recently received his first of two doses of the company's coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: Bourla told CNBC in December that company polling found that one of the most effective ways to increase confidence in the vaccine was to have the CEO take it.

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Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse: SEC lawsuit is "bad for crypto" in the U.S.

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse tells "Axios on HBO" that if his company loses a lawsuit brought by U.S. regulators, it would put the country at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to cryptocurrencies.

Between the lines: The SEC in December sued Ripple, and Garlinghouse personally, for allegedly selling over $1.3 billion in unregistered securities. Ripple's response is that its cryptocurrency, called XRP, didn't require registration because it's an asset rather than a security.

Pfizer CEO: "It will be terrible" if COVID vaccine prices limit access

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told "Axios on HBO" that it "will be terrible for society" if the price of coronavirus vaccines ever prohibits some people from taking them.

Why it matters: Widespread uptake of the vaccine — which might require annual booster shots — will reduce the risk of the virus continuing to spread and mutate, but it's unclear who will pay for future shots or how much they'll cost.

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Lindsey Graham intends to "lean into" climate change during Biden era

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told "Axios on HBO" he intends to "lean into" climate change and that he has already discussed potential common ground with President Biden's special climate envoy John Kerry.

Behind the scenes: In a follow-up interview with Axios, Graham said Kerry called him in November, around the time Kerry's new position was announced, to see if there were openings to work together.

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Lindsey Graham: Trump could make the GOP "stronger" or "destroy" it

Sen. Lindsey Graham told "Axios on HBO" that Donald Trump has a "dark side" but he tries to "harness the magic" because he succeeded where Republican candidates like John McCain and Mitt Romney failed.

Why it matters: The South Carolina Republican gyrates between support and criticism of the former president, even after Trump harshly criticized McCain — Graham's longtime friend — and helped spark the Capitol insurrection.

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Senate plots its own earmark comeback

With the Senate done battling over President Biden's coronavirus rescue package, it's preparing to tackle another priority: earmarks.

Driving the news: Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the top members on the Senate Appropriations Committee, are expected to work out a deal restoring the congressional spending tool in the coming weeks, committee aides tell Axios.

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