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Report claims Cuomo team worked $5M COVID book as 1K NYers died each day

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Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo had top administration staffers working on his self-aggrandizing, $5.1 million COVID-19 memoir at the height of the pandemic — as New York was losing as many as 1,000 residents a day to the deadly virus, a bombshell new report alleges.

“The records reveal that his government staff were already working on the book during the deadliest phase of New York’s COVID outbreak, months earlier than previously known,” said Bill Hammond, who wrote the report released Friday by the Empire Center for Public Policy.

Hammond said the evidence of prep work for the book by Cuomo aides “in the thick of the state’s worst disaster in modern history” — revealed in part by a series of never-before seen emails — gives the new Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government “fresh reason” to reopen a probe of Cuomo’s use of government resources to prepare the book.


Staffers for ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo started work on his book during the early days of the pandemic while thousands of New Yorkers died and hospitals overflowed with patients, a report on new emails alleges.
Staffers for ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo started work on his book during the early days of the pandemic while thousands of New Yorkers died and hospitals overflowed with patients, a report on new emails alleges.
Hans Pennink

The analysis shows a chain of emails among Cuomo staffers between March 30 and April 18 of 2020.

Cuomo’s top aide, Secretary Melissa DeRosa, directed staff members to produce a timeline of events and forwarded it to two of the governor’s speechwriters – Jamie Malanowski and Tom Toupousis, a former NY Post reporter who was working at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey at the time.


Emails suggest that staffers began working on ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo's pandemic memoir during the early weeks of the pandemic.
Emails suggest that staffers began working on ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pandemic memoir during the early weeks of the pandemic.
AP

The speechwriters “began converting the material into fodder for a memoir,” Hammond said.

On Thursday, April 2, at 2:27 p.m. DeRosa emailed to Malanowski and Topousis: “Have u guys had a chance to dig through this? I’ll have time tomorrow to do a brain dump.”

Topousis replied: “I looked through the material. I’ve been working to organize it a bit as something of a daily diary. I’m happy to talk tomorrow.”

Malanowski, who had been drafting a “preface,” said, “Yes, I am available as well.”


So many people died during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic that they had to be stored in trucks.
So many people died during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic that they had to be stored in makeshift morgue trucks.
Stephen Yang

Two weeks later, on the morning of Saturday, April 18, Cuomo aide Stephanie Benton emailed Malanowski, Topousis and two other staffers, asking the the speechwriters to “pls send me and Melissa what u have for tic toc.”

Malanowski replied: “Tom has been pulling together the tick tock and will respond. Here is the preface I have been working on.”

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi responded Friday, “What is being alleged here is false and defamatory. The emails have NOTHING to do with work on the book, which began months later.

“The timeline was to inform the daily briefings, speeches and other COVID-related materials. Of course a speechwriter would produce language in the Governor’s voice.”

Malanowski told The Post, “I had no knowledge that a book was in the works.”

He said he created a “narrative” for speeches or discussions.

But Malanowski acknowledged “I guess that could be used in a book.”


Families of nursing home residents claimed that ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo's policies caused the deaths of loved ones from COVID-19..
Families of nursing home residents claimed that ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s policies caused the deaths of loved ones from COVID-10.
AP

DeRosa’s lawyer, Gregory Morvillo, denied that the top Cuomo aide was doing prep work on the memoir, called “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

“Any article that states that Melissa DeRosa directed anyone to work on Governor Cuomo’s book in March and/or April 2020 is false and reckless,” Morvillo said.

“Ms. DeRosa did not do any work related to the book until after the daily briefings concluded, and that assistance was done in a volunteer capacity, without government resources, and accounted for on her time sheets.”

The emails from early 2020 were obtained via a Freedom of Information Law request by Peter Arbeeny, whose father, Norman, died from COVID shortly after leaving a Brooklyn nursing home in April 2020.

He and his brother, Daniel Arbeeny, claim their father died as a result of a Cuomo administration edict from March 2020, which required homes to accept recovering COVID-positive patients being discharged from hospitals.

Arbeeny has filed a wrongful death suit against Cuomo and DeRosa.

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