Nessel nixes ‘partisan’ federal request to probe Whitmer on nursing homes

Attorney General Dana Nessel, Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein and Justice Megan Cavanagh at the Michigan Elder Abuse Task Force meeting in Flint, July 26, 2019 | Andrew Roth

Attorney General Dana Nessel called out GOP federal lawmakers Monday and rejected their request to investigate Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order regarding COVID-19 impacts in nursing homes. 

“While I appreciate and share your concern for the impact of COVID-19 on the health and safety of our elderly population, I am curious as to why similar requests have not been sent to states with Republican Governors,” Nessel wrote in a letter to the the U.S. House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

Included in the letter were the six Republicans from Michigan: U.S. Reps. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph), Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland), Paul Mitchell (R-Dryden), Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet) and Tim Walberg (R-Tipton).

Nessel says similar requests were sent to the attorneys general of states led by Democratic governors, including New York, New Jersey, California and Pennsylvania. 

Whitmer creates bipartisan nursing home task force

However, she said there were no congressional requests for investigations sent to the attorneys general of Louisiana, Ohio, Georgia, Texas, Illinois, Massachusetts or Connecticut, all of which are led by Republican governors and are states which had more, or comparative numbers of COVID-19 cases or deaths. 

On Friday, Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-136 which maintains restrictions on visitation to health care facilities, residential care facilities, congregate care facilities and juvenile justice facilities, but authorizes the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)  to gradually reopen visitation as circumstances permit.

Whitmer also created the Michigan Nursing Homes COVID-19 Preparedness Task Force within DHHS to analyze relevant data on the threat of COVID-19 in nursing homes, make recommendations to the governor on improving data quality and releasing periodic reports to the governor on its findings and recommendations.

Nessel said the request to investigate, which she said she will not do, was intended to “produce salacious headlines rather than measurable results.”

The Democrat noted she has investigated members of her party. That includes looking into the Whitmer administration for a now-terminated COVID-19 contact-tracing contract, and charging former Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith with embezzlement. 

Nessel to probe canceled state contract with Dem firm for COVID-19 contact tracing

“But, unlike our current USAG, I will not utilize my prosecutorial authority for political ends-neither to pursue my enemies nor to protect my friends,” Nessel wrote on Twitter, in an apparent dig of U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider, who was tapped by U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr to probe Whitmer’s coronavirus emergency actions.

Nessel was also critical of the federal response to the COVID-19 crisis, namely the lack of sufficient testing supplies for states, the depletion of supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile, the obstacles created for states trying to obtain masks, gowns and ventilators and the lack of a “consistent and cohesive federal message to combat the virus.”

“Rather than improperly attempting to insert itself into one aspect of the response of Democratic Governors to an ongoing public health emergency, this subcommittee could help save countless lives of those who are sure to be touched by COVID-19 in the future by investigating and correcting the federal government’s hobbled response to a pandemic that has already claimed more than 100,000 of our citizens,” Nessel said. 

Nessel also highlighted her Elder Abuse Task Force, which has found more than 73,000 older adults in Michigan are victims of exploitation and abuse. 

“We have reached across the political aisle to tackle this problem in Michigan and have undoubtedly been more successful because of it,” Nessel wrote. “If the goal is to achieve meaningful outcomes for the elderly and other vulnerable communities with respect to COVID19, I applaud that endeavor and suggest this same bipartisan approach.”