Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday compared President Donald Trump to former President Richard Nixon, saying the former’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has made the infamous Watergate Scandal of the 1970s “look innocent.”
"Trump's COVID scandal makes what Nixon did at Watergate look innocent," Cuomo said. "Nobody died in the Watergate scandal. Thousands of people are going to die in this COVID scandal."
It’s not the first time, and certainly won’t be the last, that Cuomo has criticized the federal government’s response to the virus. With cases rising at record levels throughout the country in recent weeks, Cuomo’s turned up the heat on the Republican incumbent.
But it’s the first time Cuomo has gone as far as comparing Trump’s job performance to one of the country’s landmark scandals — one that eventually ended in Nixon’s resignation.
Cuomo, again, accused Trump of not taking the pandemic seriously from the start.
"This has been gross negligence,” he said. “They have been denying the reality of the situation from the beginning."
And then he went further. After Cuomo called Trump out for disagreeing with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control on guidelines for reopening schools in recent days, the three-term governor made a suggestion. Trump had also shared a tweet Sunday accusing the agency of “lying.”
"The president now says his own health officials are lying about the virus," Cuomo said. "Well, if the president is telling the truth, you know what he should do? He should fire them."
Cuomo has made a new push against Trump in recent weeks as the number of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations reached new lows since the peak of the disease in April. Other states have seen a recent surge in cases.
Florida, for example, reported more than 15,000 new cases of the virus in a single day over the weekend — more than New York ever reported during its experience with the disease.
But it’s a new position for Cuomo, who’s met with Trump multiple times since March to plead the state’s case for federal assistance — both in the form of funding and resources. Sometimes those discussions bore fruit. Other times they didn’t.
Trump, for example, helped New York boost its testing capacity for the disease, and gave the state permission to establish a series of temporary hospitals. He also sent a naval medical ship to New York to serve as a temporary hospital.
In other areas, Cuomo’s been unable to convince the federal government to take action. New York, and other states, are seeking a large infusion of aid to offset their financial hardship due to the coronavirus, and the federal government didn’t supply states with ventilators early on.
Cuomo and Trump, at the time, developed what was seen as a partnership to combat the virus, which had affected New York more than any other state.
But, as New York’s numbers have declined, Cuomo’s become increasingly critical of the federal government. On more than one occasion, he’s called Trump negligent for his handling of the pandemic, and asked for a stronger federal response.
It’s unclear if that will happen, particularly with the virus expanding in southern areas of the country at unprecedented rates.
For Cuomo’s part, he said Monday that New York will step up its efforts to prevent out-of-state travelers from spreading the virus. Effective Monday, anyone traveling to New York by plane will be required to provide contact information before leaving the airport, he said.
“If you leave the airport without providing the information, you will receive a summons with a $2,000 fine," Cuomo said.
Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, said in a statement Monday that Cuomo's warning was an affront to the civil liberties and would prevent individuals from traveling to New York.
"This overreach of power violates the civil liberties of New Yorkers and citizens across this country, who do not need the government to threaten fines and quarantines in order to travel responsibly," Ortt said. "This is putting an unwelcome mat at New York’s door."
As of Monday, travelers from 19 states are required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon entering New York, unless they’re considered an essential worker. More states could be added this week.
A press inquiry sent to the White House about Cuomo's comments wasn't immediately returned.