Governor Cuomo: "I'm calling their bluff by saying, "You said you want access to the DMV database for TTP, I'll give it to you." I don't believe that's what they want, they don't need it, there's no connection. I believe they just want political noise because they really want to make their argument about immigration."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo discussed the Trusted Traveler Program ahead of his meeting with President Trump tomorrow with Alan Chartock on WAMC Northeast Public Radio.
AUDIO is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:
Alan Chartock: Governor Cuomo, there are many things I want to talk to you about. I know you are heading back to Washington for the second time in a week. This time to meet with President Trump. What is on the agenda?
Governor Cuomo: This is - let's talk about this. It's a little confusing but very important. The Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Department of Homeland Security, notified us that they are going to end our access to what is called the Trusted Traveler Program - TTP. Trusted Traveler program is where a person can get pre-screened by the Federal government for expedited access at an airport or a border crossing. So you go meet with a federal official and you show them all the documentation. They do a background check and they can pre-screen you so when you get to an airport or a border crossing you can move more quickly through the line. It also gives the Federal officials more time to check the people on the line that actually need to be checked. So it's a program that they started, the federal government, that makes sense. They notify us that they are going to end our access to the TTP program. Why? Because we now have a DMV database that they don't have access too. They are very annoyed about this and they want access to our DMV database. They are saying if we don't have access to your DMV database, we are ending TTP. I do not believe there is any connection between the two. All the informed sources say there is no connection and you don't need the state DMV database to clear someone through TTP. TTP is an in-person interview The FBI has all the criminal background information from the state. So there is no connection and I believe it is all politics. But I said to the Acting Secretary on the telephone, look I will give you access to a TTP enrollee on a case by case basis. You want to look at our DMV database for TTP enrollees, fine because a TTP enrollee is going to sit with the federal government anyway to do an interview. So I'll give you that access, you're knocking on the door saying I'll burn down the house if you don't give me entry. I'll give you entry for the TTP enrollees on a case-by-case basis. Don't burn down the house. They said, "I'm burning down the house anyway." Alright, so now they're just arsonists.
Alan Chartock: Yes, now they're just arsonists.
Governor Cuomo: I have a meeting with the president to talk about it.
Alan Chartock: So, when you get on about this, I have a question for you, I know it's a sort of personal question. You're actually going to go and sit across from the president, right?
Governor Cuomo: Yes.
Alan Chartock: How can you do that? I mean, how can you look at that guy and talk to him. I mean, I know it sounds presumptuous of me, but you know, he's awful.
Governor Cuomo: Well yeah, but the questions is how can I not, you know? I don't believe, Alan, as governor I get to say, "Well I don't like that person and therefore I'm not going to do something that might help my state." If they kick us out of the TTP program, that'll have a dramatic effect on this state, on the border crossings, et cetera. I'm calling their bluff by saying, "You said you want access to the DMV database for TTP, I'll give it to you." I don't believe that's what they want, they don't need it, there's no connection. I believe they just want political noise because they really want to make their argument about immigration. The danger in the DMV database is we now have undocumented people in that DMV database, see that's what really happened here. When we allow undocumented people to get a driver's license, that means in that DMV database you have undocumented people who have a license, but who are not citizens. I will never give them access to the DMV database. And I think that's what they really want, they want to access to the undocumenteds so they can give it to ICE and ICE can have a feeding frenzy assaulting undocumented people. They shot somebody in the face in New York City last week, ICE. So I will never give them access to the DMV database. But, for the TTP enrollees on a case-by-cases basis, that's different. And it is calling their bluff because if they don't accept this then what they're ad missing is they're just playing politics.
Alan Chartock: But aren't you giving into them if you're doing it on a case-by-case basis also? Won't you endanger some of them?
Governor Cuomo: No because the TTP, to get TTP certification you have to be a citizen and you have to sit with a federal official on your own volition. You apply for this and you do an in-person interview with the federal government and you provide them all your documentation. You're not going to do that unless you're a citizen and you have a clean criminal record, et cetera. So that's all your decision to apply. If you apply for the TTP you're subjecting yourself to much greater scrutiny than what we have in our DMV file.
Alan Chartock: I got it, so in other words, the people who are guests but are not citizens are unlikely to be in the TTP program
Governor Cuomo: Oh no, you could never apply for TTP status if you are undocumented because you would be turning yourself in to the federal government, walking before federal officials saying, "I'm undocumented." I mean you would never do that.
Alan Chartock: So you don't believe for a minute that this president is going to turn around to you and say, "Well Andrew that's good, thank you very much, I accept your offer of a compromise."
Governor Cuomo: No because there was a memo that leaked, Alan, from DHS that is really amazing, you know. Buzzfeed, a news organization, gets a memo from DHS laying out options to punish states that have undocumented driver's licenses and they happen to be democratic states. It's an excuse for them to inflame this divisive immigration debate, which is political fodder for them. What is Trump running on? He's running fear and division and the driver's license debate, immigration debate, is his greatest wedge in the body politic.
Alan Chartock: So why are you going? Once again. If you know the outcome right? You know the outcome. You know that he is not going to give way on this thing, and yet you are going. And by the way you asked for this meeting didn't you?
Governor Cuomo: Oh yes but the same way that I asked for a meeting and received one when they devastated the state economically on SALT. And charged us billions of dollars, state and local tax deduction, when they would not help on the second avenue subway in Manhattan, when they would not approve the AirTrain at LaGuardia Airport or the Gateway Tunnel. They have always been very negative to New York because we are in their political interest. Donald Trump moves to Florida. Why? Because he thinks politically he is viable in Florida and he thinks being a resident of Florida will help him politically. But New York is a lost cause. I am going Alan to strip away any patina of credibility and government authenticity and expose the sham that they are running once again where they're using government to abuse people for political purposes. I'm going to expose them as arsonists. You said you'd burn down the house if you don't get DMV data for TTP? Okay, you can have it. Now what?
Alan Chartock: All right, I want to switch the subject to Roger Stone, your former Attorney General of New York. Seems to me to be really a disgraceful situation in which the President is not happy with the sentencing proposal from his own people in the Justice Department. What do you make of it?
Governor Cuomo: They don't have a federal Justice Department, they have a federal injustice department. And the President has no respect for the rule of law, that's what we saw in the impeachment and the Ukraine. By the way, that's what we see here with the Department of Homeland Security. Politicizing Homeland Security, whoever heard of that? So, yeah, his friends his buddies, he's going to - he has no qualms about perverting the "justice system" because he doesn't see it as a justice system. Everything is political, everything is hyper political, everything is personal. And he frightens the Republicans who are against him and he promises immunity to the ones who are with him.
Alan Chartock: And how does he frighten them? He frightens them because they think if he owns the Justice Department, these Republicans who are against him, he'll come after me. Is that the issue?
Governor Cuomo: That's exactly right. He'll use his Justice Department, he'll use any governmental power, he'll use political braggadocio, he'll go to the Republican base and he'll beat you in a Republican primary so you'd better be with him. Fear, intimidation that's how he governs. What happens to government and policy and debate? It's never happened. Look, he ran for office. It's never been about ideas and debates and political substance. It's always been hyperbolic, rhetorical, divisive.
Alan Chartock: Let's talk about the results in New Hampshire last night. You've never said you endorsed Joe Biden, you've always said you like Joe Biden, I get the distinction. Nevertheless, the results are not favorable to Biden. What do you make of it? And Bernie Sanders, of course, comes out ahead and so does Buttigieg. You know, here you are, a major Democratic politician in this country, so I ask you, what do you make of it?
Governor Cuomo: Look, I am singularly focused on beating Donald Trump. I believe he is dangerous for this nation. And I think the Democratic Party should have the strongest candidate they can have against Trump.