Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on WAMC Northeast Public Radio with Alan Chartock.
AUDIO is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:
Alan Chartock: Governor Cuomo. I guess I want to start with you and your brother. Do you guys do tag team? I mean, in other words, you say something, you make news, he takes it up on his news show. That happened just yesterday didn't it?
Governor Cuomo: We don't purposely do tag teams. There was a spontaneity to it. I talked on your show in the morning. We made news. And he doesn't do the show until the evening, Christopher. So he has the advantage you see of reading the news I made and then coming up with his analysis and possibly critiquing my analysis later in the evening.
Alan Chartock: That's dangerous. That's dangerous for him to do. And you gotta pick up the phone and yell at him.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, no. He's kind of big, my brother. I have to pick and choose the time. I can still take him, by the way just so you know. I still have that older brother advantage. But he is doing - don't tell him I said this - but he's doing a great job. His interview with Rudy Giuliani where he had Rudy admit, do a full 180, during the questioning where Rudy admitted that he spoke to Ukraine about investigating Joe Biden's son.
That advanced this whole Ukraine story. That was the rocket ship that really launched the Ukraine. And Chris did that in his interview with Giuliani who is a very tough customer to interview. And I watched that. Giuliani was hot and really personally attacking Chris, but he did a great job. He really did a great job.
Alan Chartock: Well why in the world would Giuliani go on with Chris knowing Chris is smart and would beat him up?
Governor Cuomo: Well I think he knows Chris is fair. He knows Chris a long time. I mean I know Rudy Giuliani a long time. He knew my father. He supported, he endorsed my father, remember in the surprise endorsement early on where he crossed party lines. And CNN is a major outlet and you can't ignore CNN. And Chris is fair. He is. He'll both sides, but he does both sides fairly.
And it's not that Chris was attacking Giuliani, it's that what Giuliani wound up admitting during Christopher's questioning. And Chris is good at questioning. You know he grew up at the kitchen table with my father and myself where cross examination happened before breakfast, you know.
Alan Chartock: So let's talk about what happened yesterday. The whole subject of impeachment came up. What happened then?
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, Christopher was talking about what is the legal standard for impeachment. And he went back to our discussion and this is what I think is the essence of it. Speaker Pelosi has done a great job handling this issue of impeachment, I believe. Because at one point, people were pushing her on it when it was premature. I think the Speaker understands that this impeachment issue can be promise or peril. It can be a determent and a factor in the 2020 election and you have to take it seriously and you have to make sure that you have the facts in place to justify the inquiry, which I think she then did.
And now what is the next step? And my point is, look if the House acts, let's just fast forward. If the House acts, they're going to send it to the Senate. McConnell has said the Senate will "take it up," whatever that means. But the Senator's not going to be inclined to do anything other than deep six the House motion if they make it. So what does that mean? That means the final operative will be the court of public opinion and will the House have demonstrated a factual case that when the Senate deep sixes it, if they do, the American people will be outraged because now the Senate will have covered up. That standard is going to be difficult.
Now, legally you get into a discussion of what does high crimes and misdemeanors mean. Technically, you do not have to have the House find a crime. The Constitution, Hamilton, the Federalist Papers say it doesn't have to be a crime. There has to be a Constitutional violation. The Constitutional scholars will argue that. However, in the Johnson impeachment, in the Nixon impeachment, in the Clinton impeachment they did find a crime or alleged the elements of a crime. And that's why the Republicans are now arguing if you listen to them, the standard is you must find the elements of a crime, you must have a quid pro quo - that's why they keep saying there's no quid pro quo.
Now, you can argue, and I believe it's correct constitutionally you don't need a crime, but the Democrats need to follow they facts, and they need to construct a strong factual case that when the Senate denies it, which I believe is their inclination, the American people cry foul. And it can't just be unseemly he said, she said - it has to be a tight factual case that at the end of this the American people say, "The House Democrats were right. The Senate covered it up," and this becomes a positive factor for the Democrats in 2020, and not what the Republicans are now saying, "This is just a partisan witch hunt."
Alan Chartock: But as I've already asked you - you believe that this president, you've said, you believe this president deserves to be impeached now, right?
Governor Cuomo: Yes, I believe, I believe that when they follow the facts and when they pull out the facts, you will have a very strong case. I believe you will have elements of a crime, not just a vague constitutional argument, but I believe you'll have elements of a crime. I don't except the Republican argument, "there was no quid pro quo." When you're having a conversation - an offer or discussion of hundreds and millions of dollars, and in that conversation a linkage of "do me a favor." "Do me a favor," is quid pro quo - that's what "do me a favor" means. Nobody says on a phone conversation, "Oh, and the quid pro quo is" - they say, "Do me a favor. I would appreciate it if you did X." But, "do me a favor," is the synonym for quid pro quo.
Alan Chartock: Well haven't you ever asked somebody, Governor, you know, do me a favor without offering a quid pro quo?
Governor Cuomo: I've asked you to do me a favor and stop asking me annoying questions and to no avail. But no, I've never had a conversation with a person where they were asking me for money, and I said, "Do me a favor and do this for me. I want X; I want Y. Do me favor and give me Y, and I'll be inclined to give you X."
And the conversation was with the Ukrainian minister, they wanted funding - that was the point of the conversation. They did not call up to talk about Hunter Biden. That was not the subject, and by the way, they've only released a portion of the transcript, but the bottom line is, there is - there will be a debate on the legal standard of impeachment. The constitutional argument is right - I don't believe you need a crime. They did allege for Nixon and for Clinton and even for Johnson - I don't believe that standard is legally true - but this is not going to come down to a legal argument.
It's going to come down to an argument before the American people in the court of public opinion, because I don't believe the senators are going to move it forward. They have been purely partisan in every act they've taken.
Alan Chartock: Now not to be too annoying because I know you consider me annoying - the question I have for you is this: Did Joe Biden have any business allowing Hunter Biden to go up there with those Ukrainians? I mean, it seems so unseemly to me.
Governor Cuomo: The issue of - I don't know what Hunter Biden did or didn't do, and I don't know what Joe knew about what Hunter Biden was doing.
Alan Chartock: No, no, no - I'm not talking about that. I'm not talking about that. I think the whole thing stinks: Here's a guy who knows he's going to run for president - he's pretty sure he's going to run for president. His son goes up to - what are his son's qualifications other than being Joe Biden's son?
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, I just don't know. I don't know the facts, Alan, but what they're saying is Biden asked the Ukrainian government to get rid of the prosecutor to help his son. That is just factually, wholly bogus and false. It was the Obama administration's position; it was the G7's position. It was the International Monetary Fund's position. It was all our allies' position. Joe Biden was just a messenger. He was just the Vice President.
Alan Chartock: No no, I get all of that. I get all of that. I get it. I don't want to be annoying. It just seems to me if you're going to run for president you want to keep your nose as clean as you possibly can. And you certainly don't want your son making a whole lot of money based on you name.
Governor Cuomo: Yes, I have - I just don't know. I don't know what Hunter Biden was doing or not doing. I understand the question. And I don't mind you being annoying. I come on you show because you are annoying. And I take a badge of courage in subjecting myself to the annoyance.
Alan Chartock: And deserve it.
Governor Cuomo: Yes.
Alan Chartock: Okay, listen. Enough of that. I want to go on to the discussion we had yesterday about whether or not there ought to be instead of having people on the decision making committee, this was the CPRB, is that what it is?
Governor Cuomo: Yes, this is. Look the MTA, one day I am going to teach a course on what not to do in government and the lead example is going to be the MTA. The MTA is flawed from inception. It was a cynical move by the powers that be at the time to create this board that everybody had a voice but nobody had control or responsibility, because nobody wanted responsibility. So the MTA was this amorphous board that nobody was really responsible and when nobody is responsible performance suffers and that is the story. I have now injected myself into the MTA and am pushing as hard as I can and every lever that I can. And the MTA has made progress.
The on time performance is up. The Capital Plan is moving. The L Train was a big success. Second Avenue Subway opening. And those are things where I just injected myself personally. The MTA just came up with a Capital Plan of $50 billion dollars. It affects half the people in the state of New York. It's a record capital plan. The Capital Plan now is supposed to go to something called the CPRB. What is the CPRB? I never heard of it. It is called the Capital Plan Review Board. It's another political vehicle that has been created over the years which is supposed to review the plan that the MTA Board passed before it goes to the New York State Legislature and the New York City Council. And then the CPRB what they have done is the Mayor gets an appointment, the Governor gets an appointment, the Assembly Speaker and the Senate Leader, and they appoint a person and these people have total veto over the plan. And what it has been in the past is these people on the CPRB, before they will approve the plan, this become a back room political negotiating session where they say well look I am not going to pass this plan unless you do x, y, z. And they can be wholly disconnected from the merits of the capital plan. It is without transparency, without accountability, and it is just a political backroom deal making arena.
Alan Chartock: So, you want to make it better as you explained to us the last time by having the principals as opposed to their appointees coming on.
Governor Cuomo: Yes, for example. The mayor has suggested a gentlemen to sit on the board named Sherif Soliman. I don't know him. He may be a very nice person. But to veto the MTA Capital Plan? I added the law last year that they have to explain why they would veto it or why they would want it altered. But this is not an elected official and you want to veto a $50 billion dollar plan, there should be some accountability and transparency and you should be elected by somebody.
So let the Mayor sit on the aboard. In the past, the Speaker and the Senate leader have appointed individual members. So a member may be from Queens and the Queens member says you know what I am not going to approve this plan unless I get more stuff for Queens. Otherwise, I am going to veto the whole plan. That is not the way government is supposed to work. It is not supposed to be pork barrel for that individual member. And look, I went through this last year with another vague political body called the PACB where the Senate appointed a Senator who killed the Amazon program because it served his political need, hurt everybody else in the state, but it helped his political need as he saw it in his district.
This is a statewide plan. It's not a district plan. And the CPRB is just a middle step. The whole plan goes to the Legislature anyway and they're going to look at the whole plan anyway and they can make any changes they want in the State budget.
Alan Chartock: Yeah, but I know you well enough, Governor, to know that if you're sitting there with a Senate leader who would presumably be there and the Mayor who would presumably be there, the Assembly leader, you'll beat the hell out of them. That's who you are. You're a tough guy and you know, that's why you want this because you know you'll have your way with them.
Governor Cuomo: No, no, no, no. Well, look, if they're saying, I want to be able to kill the plan in the dark of night with no accountability or I want the ability to leverage additional benefits having nothing to do with this because I hold this powerful card called the veto, I think that's wrong, and look, if the Mayor wants to veto it, God bless him. If, Andrew Stewart-Cousins wants to veto it, God bless her. But stand up and explain to the people why you want to veto it. And if it's a bonafide reason, fine, but this is a major public document and a major public decision and it shouldn't be done in the dark of night and it shouldn't be done anonymously and it shouldn't be done by an unelected person or a person who just represents one district as opposed to over half the people of the State of New York who take this. And it should be the Speaker, or the Senate Leader, or the Mayor.
Alan Chartock: So, Governor, very quickly, there are a lot of people interest groups out there. Are they supporting your plan to bring the principles on as opposed to the appointees?
Governor Cuomo: Look, we had this discussion yesterday on the radio, and the interest groups all came out in favor of it because it's certainly good government. It's certainly common sense. How can you have this old vestige of the dark past sitting in a private room with no accountability making a decision on the major transportation project for the state for the next 10 years. I mean it's really a bizarre old backroom political fixing machine. And if the Mayor has a problem he should do it in his name. And look, if it's going to be a debate, yeah, it should be a debate. It's $50 billion. It's the MTA which everybody is frustrated with and disgusted with including myself. So it should be a public debate. And let him stand up or let Speaker Heastie or Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins stand up and make their case and let the public hear it.
Alan Chartock: I wouldn't want to be the person who has to do that to you. But in any case—
Governor Cuomo: They do it to me every day. I'm a teddy bear and a pussycat and a marriage witness.
Alan Chartock: I'm a teddy bear, I'm a pussycat and a marriage witness - going to be in a book. So anyway, great to have you with us, Governor, and please accept our gratitude for giving us all this time.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you. One last point, Alan: we heard that Bernie Sanders had a health issue today and we wish him the best and a speedy recovery. Being out there on the campaign trail and fighting for what you believe in is very difficult and I've done it, obviously on a very small level, and it takes a toll on your body and your family and your health so we wish Bernie Sanders all the best.
Alan Chartock: And you are a much younger man. Governor Cuomo, thank you.