New Jersey’s top Republican is asking the Trump-appointed Justice Department for a federal investigation into Gov. Phil Murphy’s handling of long-term care facilities during the coronavirus pandemic and their use of funds from the Federal Emergency Management Administration.
“The thousands of nursing home dead and their families deserve nothing less than a full and fair investigation,” GOP State Chairman Doug Steinhardt wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Craig Carpenito, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. “Reports reflect that the Governor’s administration may not be taking proper care with federal funds.”
Steinhardt said that published reports of secretly recorded phone calls between state Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli and Murphy administration officials “raise the specter of intentional abuses and mismanagement of those funds.”
“This newest revelation adds an additional layer of intrigue that warrants federal intervention and assistance,” Steinhardt said.
Steinhardt is considered a possible candidate for the Republican nomination to run against Murphy in 2021.
The Republican leader accused Murphy of “now actively conducting an inquisition to determine who provided this information to the public.” The Star-Ledger reported on Saturday that now-fired Assistant Commissioner of Health Christopher Neuwirth was being accused internally of leaking confidential information to the media.
“The result is a potential chilling effect on future whistleblowers who may have information about other alleged mismanagement or wrong doing, but could, as a result of the Governor’s aggressive, offensive strategy to prevent transparency and enforce silence, refuse to come forward for fear of administration retaliation,” Steinhardt said.
In might not be easy for Steinhardt to get the Trump administration to get involved. President Donald Trump widely praised Murphy during a meeting at the White House in April.
“They have a wonderful man that’s running it, who’s — he runs it with heart and with brains, and he — he’s done a terrific job,” Trump said. “We are together. We are working closely.”
Murphy’s office declined comment.