State legislative leaders in the Assembly and Senate are discussing the potential for an independent probe into the state’s COVID deaths in adult-care facilities after Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa admitted to Democratic lawmakers in a private Zoom call last week that the administration intentionally underreported the total nursing home fatality count out of fear of political retaliation from President Donald Trump and federal prosecutors.

That line is hard to swallow, based on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s unabashed takedowns of Trump and his administration over refusal to grant COVID relief funds for New York. Yet to anyone in Albany searching for a smoking gun, DeRosa’s blockbuster admission offered the closest to one we’ve heard so far.

“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,” DeRosa told Sen. James Skoufis, D-Woodbury, according to a partial transcript from the governor’s office. “What we start saying was going to be used against us while we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation.”

Investigation? Used against us? Those are words often spoken in the alleged commission of a crime. As for “froze,” that word calls Cuomo’s tough-guy, us-against-them scalding of the former president into question. Was the governor the state’s superhero or was his attitude simply posturing?

Meanwhile, the information deficit in terms of nursing home deaths is trailing right behind the budget deficit in New York. Given DeRosa’s admission, we can’t think of a better time to launch an investigation. Freezing in the face of the deaths of so many is not an option.

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