Governor Cuomo: "The President of the United States, for all his bluster, is afraid of the NRA. It is that simple."
Governor Cuomo: "What this President has done, he's walked around the house, pouring gasoline on the floor, and then says, every American should have a match. No. That's the toxic cocktail, this environment of hate in the nation. Yes, intolerance, division, anti-Semitism, racism, plus a gun, plus a gun. That's when people die."
This morning, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on CNN's "New Day" with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
A rush transcript is available below:
John Berman: Turmoil at the national rifle association after its President, Oliver North, stepped down after a power struggle with the long-time CEO Wayne LaPierre over the organization's finances. This comes as New York's Attorney General has launched an investigation—a new investigation—into the NRA. Joining me now is the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. Governor Cuomo, thanks so much for being with us. You have been at loggerheads with the NRA for some time, specifically for over a year over an insurance policy plan that they proposed. This investigation is something different. Can you explain to me what it is? The New York Attorney General confirmed its existence over the weekend.
Governor Cuomo: Yes. Good morning, John. Thank you for having me. I've been at loggerheads with the NRA for more than a year. I've been at loggerheads with the NRA for about 20 years, for very good reasons. I believe the NRA is counterproductive, not just to the people of this country, but also for legal gun owners. I don't think they serve gun owners well. They haven't been constructive. They have been a destructive force in this country for everyone involved. The investigation by the Attorney General is what it is. The Attorney General is independently elected, and she is elected in this state to enforce the law. The NRA is originally chartered in this state. It's a not for profit organization. So she has jurisdiction, and she believes there may have been illegal activity and she is pursuing that case. The President's accusation that it is politically motivated is all garbage. We don't do that in New York State. I think it is telling that the President would think right away, well you're using the criminal justice apparatus for politics. That's his thinking and that's his mindset. It's not how we operate in the state of New York.
John Berman: Let me read you what the President said. You're talking about what the President said. I'll read to people what the President said about this and the New York action. "The NRA is under siege by Cuomo." That's you. "And the New York State Attorney General, who are illegally using the state's legal apparatus to take down and destroy the very important organization and others. It must get its act together quickly, stop the internal fighting, and get back to greatness fast." That was the President's statement.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah. And again, when the President makes a statement, often facts don't matter. "Cuomo did this." No, we have an independently elected Attorney General. The Attorney General enforces the law. If you break the law, you answer to the Attorney General and other criminal law enforcement people in New York. And we don't use the criminal justice apparatus to play politics. It is separate, Mr. President. You have the Justice Department, which acts independently to enforce the laws, and you don't politicize the justice system, Mr. President—new flash.
As far as the NRA and the President, look, the President of the United States, for all his bluster, is afraid of the NRA. It is that simple. We know it is that simple. The NRA has been a strong political force for many, many years. They're threatening. They have money. They mobilize people. They've been attacking me all my professional career because I had the audacity to call them out. The President came close to doing the right thing on this issue of guns. After Parkland, Florida, you'll remember, John, he appeared rational on the issue of guns for a brief moment in time. And after Parkland, Florida, this he said, do we really need assault weapons? Maybe we should raise the age of buying an assault weapon to 21 years old. Why don't we have universal background checks? That was the President of the United States. he even accused a GOP Senator of being afraid of the NRA. What happened? 24 hours later, the NRA showed up. They had a conversation with the President. He did a 180 degree turn. He just flipped. All the logic, all the reason that he had spouted after Parkland, Florida, was reversed after the NRA told him what the script was. They are afraid of the NRA and there is no reason to be.
John Berman: Do you think, based on this leadership struggle they had over the weekend, the lawsuits and investigations involved here, do you think the NRA is in trouble right now, that there is any jeopardy with the organization?
Governor Cuomo: Oh, I think they're in trouble. I think the gig is up for the NRA because people now know the truth. I mean, you have, 2017, we had the highest year for mass shootings in the history of the nation. Almost every week. Last weekend the awful synagogue shooting in San Diego. And what this President has done, he's walked around the house, pouring gasoline on the floor, and then says, well, every American should have a match. No. That's the toxic cocktail, this environment of hate in the nation. Yes, intolerance, division, anti-Semitism, racism, plus a gun, plus a gun. That's when people die. Plus, an assault weapon
John Berman: The President had other things to say about you personally, saying you did not fight in 2017 during the tax cut debate over the capping of state and local taxes, which has a net effect, frankly, raising a lot of people's taxes in New York, saying you didn't fight hard for New York there. What do you say to him on that?
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, well, I also have blonde hair, blue eyes and a little button nose. Can you see it, John, my little button nose? Again, the President is divorced from facts. You can run him the tape of the shows I've done with you, talking about SALT. And for him to now say well, New York should have fought harder to stop SALT, he was the one who proposed it. Why would you have assaulted the State of New York with a tax reform policy that raised our taxes? This SALT reform by the way again it was pure politics. Fifteen states had their taxes effectively raised by the SALT deduction and the of state local tax deductibility. All Democratic states. It's all politics all the time with him. There is no policy.
There is no good government and that's what it is with the NRA and guns. They are afraid of the NRA and the political strength of the NRA and that's why they don't represent the American people. The NRA is out of touch. Why don't we have universal background checks? We see Americans getting slain every week. Of course you have a constitutional Second Amendment right. We respect that but it's not unconditional. Why would you let mentally ill people who could hurt themselves or hurt others buy a gun? Why would you do that? Where is the common sense and why can't our federal government appreciate that? I passed the toughest gun laws in the nation respecting the Second Amendment but you need a federal law to stop the guns coming in the back door.
John Berman: Governor Andrew Cuomo, thank you for joining us. We would never say anything about your nose on this broadcast. We appreciate you being with us. Thank you, sir.
Governor Cuomo: Well, because you know where you've seen it before.
John Berman: Thank you very much, Governor.