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The Justice Department declined to open a civil rights investigation into Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s policies for nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
Michigan was one of four states the Trump-era Justice Department sought data from on suspicion that policies for care homes imposed early during the health crisis may have been responsible for the deaths of thousands of seniors in violation of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.
“We have reviewed the information you provided along with additional information available to the Department. Based on that review, we have decided not to open a CRIPA investigation of any public nursing facility within Michigan at this time,” Steven Rosenbaum, chief of the department’s Special Litigation Section, wrote in a letter to Whitmer’s office on Thursday.
The Justice Department announced on Aug. 26 it was requesting information from Democratic-led New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, citing policies that require nursing homes to accept infected patients at facilities “often without adequate testing.”
“Protecting the rights of some of society’s most vulnerable members, including elderly nursing home residents, is one of our country’s most important obligations,” said then-Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband at the time. “We must ensure they are adequately cared for with dignity and respect and not unnecessarily put at risk.”
Whitmer’s office criticized the Trump administration for playing “partisan games” at the time.
“The fact that this letter was sent during the middle of the Republican National Convention week to four Democratic governors should make it crystal clear that this is nothing more than election year politics by an administration that is more concerned with the president's re-election campaign than protecting Michigan seniors,” her press secretary said in a statement on Aug. 26.
The Washington Examiner reached out to Whitmer's office for comment on the Justice Department's decision not to investigate.
Michigan Republicans have sought similar state-level investigations into Whitmer and nursing homes. Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel declined such a request to investigate Whitmer, saying in March she would not “abuse the investigatory powers of this department to launch a political attack on any state official, regardless of party or beliefs.”
Meanwhile, state Auditor General Doug Ringler agreed to investigate deaths in care homes after Republican House Oversight Committee Chairman Steven Johnson had asked him to do a “comprehensive study of reported and unreported deaths in long-term care facilities.” The audit is expected to conclude in September or October, Ringler said.
Although the Justice Department declined to investigate Michigan, the agency is investigating New York over the Cuomo administration's handling of nursing homes patients. A Cuomo aide revealed in February officials hid data about deaths out of fear of political retribution from the Trump administration.
A report from New York Attorney General Letitia James's office found the Cuomo administration undercounted nursing home deaths by nearly half.
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Original Author: Jeremy Beaman
Original Location: Justice Department declines to investigate Whitmer over nursing home deaths