by Scott McClallen
Attorney General Dana Nessel rejected Republicans’ request to investigate Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 nursing home policy.
A Republican state senator said Monday that Attorney General Dana Nessel is expected to announce by the middle of the week whether she will investigate Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 nursing home policies.
“I called on the attorney general to carry out an honest investigation into Michigan’s nursing home policies weeks ago,” Sen. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, said in a statement. “I’ve learned from the attorney general’s office that they intend to announce a decision by Wednesday. Attorney General Nessel knows the right thing to do – and that is to get answers for every family who lost a loved one to COVID-19 in a nursing home.”
The announcement follows as Michigan and New York were two of five states that pursued a controversial policy that placed COVID-19 positive patients in nursing homes.
Last week, Macomb County’s prosecutor Peter Lucido, a Republican, said Whitmer could face charges over the policy.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff is suing the Michigan health department after it allegedly refused to release COVID-19 nursing home data.
“Gov. Whitmer’s regional hub policy placed patients with and without COVID-19 in the same facilities and may have increased the death toll in those facilities,” Runestad said. “We need to know how this happened and why it was allowed to happen; we need to figure out why the data doesn’t add up. Grieving families are tired of the stonewalling. We need an investigation now, because families deserve answers.”
Lawmakers previously asked for an investigation into the administration’s nursing home policies, nursing home data accuracy, and compliance with federal health guidance and state public record laws.
“The administration ignored warnings from the Health Care Association of Michigan not to put infected patients into facilities with those most vulnerable to COVID-19, and our seniors faced the consequences of that action,” Runestad said.
Runestad said party alliance shouldn’t stop Nessel from investigating Whitmer.
“In New York, a Democratic attorney general is investigating a Democratic governor because it is the right thing to do,” he said, referencing a probe initiated by Attorney General Letitia James into allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior against Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “This shouldn’t be partisan. Our attorney general needs to do the right thing here, too, and get answers for families who are still grieving the loss of a loved one.”
In a news release, Nessel detailed why each lawmaker concern didn’t warrant an investigation. Nessel claimed the choice to investigate a claim or pursue prosecution must be made free from political motivations.
“Though I will not hesitate to act when justified, I also will not abuse the investigatory powers of this Department to launch a political attack on any state official, regardless of party or beliefs,” Nessel said in a statement.
Nessel also highlighted the American Bar Association’s “Standards for Criminal Justice: Prosecutorial Investigations” in her response: “Law enforcement officials have an ethical duty to ‘resist political pressure intended to influence the conduct, focus, duration or outcome of a criminal investigation,’ and to ‘limit the political impact’ of an investigation ‘without regard to the official’s personal political beliefs or affiliations,’” Nessel said.
Nessel previously investigated allegations of Whitmer giving away a state contract for COVID-19 contact tracing to a Democratic operative. Nessel’s team interviewed 17 witnesses and reviewed thousands of documents but found no wrongdoing.
“I appreciate that you and your colleagues have policy disagreements with Governor Whitmer’s response to COVID-19,” Nessel wrote. “But an investigation by my office is not the mechanism to resolve those disagreements. You have provided insufficient indicia that any law has been violated and thus no investigation is warranted at this time.”
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.