Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on NY1 with Errol Louis and Kristen Shaughnessy.
A rush transcript is below.
Kristen Shaughnessy: Yesterday at a joint press conference, Governor Cuomo called for unity among District Attorneys who are leading a criminal investigation into Schneiderman. Joining me now is our political anchor Errol Louis, and joining us from his office on the East Side of Manhattan is Governor Cuomo. I thank you both for being with us. Good afternoon Governor.
Governor Cuomo: Good afternoon. Good to be with you.
Kristen Shaughnessy: Can you talk about the latest in the investigation and how long you can expect this to take into Eric Schneiderman?
Governor Cuomo: Well, as you said, it was a chaotic and a busy week, and a shocking week and a disturbing week. The first step was to make sure that there is any criminal liability after Eric Schneiderman's resignation and the revelations, that we're doing that and we're doing that right. I want the people of the state to know that no one is above the law, and we acted very quickly. We have a Special Prosecutor Madeline Singas from Nassau who is a top shelf prosecutor in this area. She started the domestic violence bureau in the Queens District Attorney's office. She heads to the special victims bureau in Nassau County before coming to the DA. There is no conflict. There is no perception of a conflict and everyone is working well. The timing will be whatever the timing takes. I've asked her to do a thorough investigation. She said she will leave no stone unturned. She's going to look at his actions. She's going to ask victims to come forward. She's also going to look at any possible involvement by the Attorney General's office itself. So that will be a very thorough investigation and it is already underway.
Errol Louis: So now Governor, turning to the politics of filling the vacancy for Attorney General. The law specifies that the legislators shall, they shall sort of meet and fill in the vacancy while it is there. On the other hand, we're just a few weeks away from petitions hitting the streets and a regular election taking place and candidates stepping forward. Do you want the legislator to step aside and forgo its duty and just what the voters take care of it? What would be your preference?
Governor Cuomo: Well the legislature will decide what the legislature wants to do Errol. And you are right, the law says the legislature shall, but the law does not say the legislature shall do it by when. There is no time limit. And there is also a complication for the legislature. It is a joint vote of the legislature which means it's the Assembly and the Senate. Now, the Assembly has majority of votes so the Assembly often wins votes. But the law says it must be a joint resolution. I do not know that the Senate will participate. If the Senate does not participate, then there is a possibility of a lawsuit where the Assembly could say the Senate is showing bad faith. The Assembly has said so far that they're going to interviews next week. They will interview all interested parties and then they will see where they go from there. We are also waiting to see if the senate will actually participate or if there would have to be a lawsuit. So that is very iffy process and a time-consuming process, especially if there is a lawsuit. My position is, right now by law, the acting Attorney General is a woman named Barbara Underwood. I appointed her when I was Attorney General, Solicitor General. She is extraordinarily qualified. I think she provides capable leadership and continuity in the office. So I don't think there's any rush to replace the vacancy. I think the office is in capable hands. I think a short period of time. How many times do you want to disrupt that office? So I think it will be just time if Barbara Underwood would continue to serve, and the real decision is going to be made in the election as you pointed out. There will be a primary election, maybe, there will be a general election, and that is the way the position should be filled. I was Attorney General. It is an extraordinarily important position. It is important now given all that is going on, especially at the federal level. And it should be filled by an election and by the people. The Attorney General is the people's lawyer. And it should be filled by that election and it will be filled by that election. And also, elections wind up self-selecting.
Errol Louis: I was going to say Governor, conveniently enough, we're just a couple weeks out from the convention at which you and your fellow Democrats were going to get together to put together a slate to run in the fall anyhow. So is that a possible venue to work out some of these questions?
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, but I don't think they should be worked out. They should be an election. There will be a Democratic Convention. The Democrat Convention will select a person or two people or three people, or people can circulate petitions. Which I've done in the past and you would get on the ballot that way. So if somebody wants to run, they can run. They can do it through election or through petitions. I believe that the election process is the right process. Because you now have a wide field the people who say they are thinking about running, 57 people whatever the number is. But none of them have announced. Elections are self-selecting. If you are afraid to run for one reason or another, then you should not be Attorney General. If you are afraid to take on the establishment, then he should not be Attorney General. If you do not want to give up your current position because you want to play it safe, then you shouldn't be Attorney General because it's not a position to play it safe. If you're unwilling to stand up before the people and go all over this state and show yourself, then you shouldn't be Attorney General. So, I look to the election and the self-selection of the election. The exposure of the election and the honesty.
Errol Louis: Some of what we're hearing a lot of, and I'm sure you're hearing it just as much, is that some people are trying to sort of work through mayoral politics through this process. I'm talking of course about the possibility that our public advocate might be one of the candidates who either runs or is named by the legislature or perhaps gets approval at the convention, all of those different paths that we've just described. Is it appropriate for those considerations to filter into this? And I know you can't really take the politics out of politics, but is that complicating things in this case?
Governor Cuomo: You know, I think is all baloney at the end of the day. Baloney is a technical term, Errol, it's defined in state law. Forget all that. Yeah, you will have politicians who will do political machinations. Yeah, that's always there. But there's an honesty to the election. If somebody believes they're the best qualified person to be Attorney General, then say it, get in the race, run, go to the convention and if that doesn't work out, start circulating petitions and get on the ballot and run. And if you are unwilling to do that, you should not be Attorney General. Because Attorney General you have to have the courage to stand up. You know, when I was Attorney General we took on the big banks, we took on the finance companies, we took on the federal government. I took on the politicians. I put politicians in jail. I made the Democratic officials very unhappy with me. I investigated the legislature. If you are not that person, you shouldn't be Attorney General. And yeah, there will be political machinations, but they should be above that.
Kristen Shaughnessy: Governor, let's switch gears a little bit. I want to talk about Sheldon Silver's corruption trial now in its first full day of deliberation. The jury got this case about 5:00 yesterday and deliberated until 5:30 and now they are fully into the deliberations. I'd like to hear your thoughts.
Governor Cuomo: Let the process work. As I said, I was Attorney General. I believe in the justice system. I believe in the process and I believe it should be allowed to work and unfettered and uninfluenced. So the jury decide.
Errol Louis: Governor, we have talked before about the situation in public housing, something you are aware of in great detail. You've made a lot of high profile visits and so forth. What is the status of that question? Can we expect to see you doing more to try and draw news cameras and other attention to what is going on? Do you have any sense of whether or not that aggressive timetable about putting some new monitors in place is actually proceeding as intended?
Governor Cuomo: I am going to do everything I can do, Errol, just so we're clear and honest, to get you out of bed early in the morning and to bring you to NYCHA for the exposure of NYCHA. I have done a number of events at NYCHA. I'll continue to do it. I want New Yorkers to see the way we have other New Yorkers live in this city, in this great state. Michael Harrington exposed the injustice. Martin Luther King exposed the injustice. I believe when New Yorkers see how people are living in public housing, they will be outraged and they will not tolerate it because it is public housing, because it's predominately poor minorities, it's isolated. I think there will be public outrage when people see the actual conditions. On the state side we are doing everything we can. We have authorized what's called design/build legislation to accelerate the construction. We pledged $550 million, Errol, which is more money than the state has ever pledged in history. There's 150 public housing authorities in this state. We have never, we have no financial liability to the public housing authorities. We have never contributed anything like $550 million. The tenants are suing the city for the conditions at NYCHA and I stand with the tenants. Now we've also put in an executive order that has management reforms. People are missing the big piece here, and the next shoe to drop, which I am waiting for to come up with a final action plan, the federal government has been doing an investigation for two years. Now, when you have a two-year federal investigation, I have done enough investigations myself to know you normally do not continue an investigation for two years if you have nothing. What that federal investigation finds, I think is going to be determinative. If they find nothing, then the city will have no liability because remember how public housing works, the federal government is charged primarily with funding. New York City does management by appointing the board of the New York City Public Housing Authority. So if the federal investigation finds nothing, then there will be nothing. If the federal investigation finds something, then they will probably have to be a settlement. Depending on what they find, there could be a settlement that has significant management reform dictated in that settlement, which could change the way public housing works. If they find something, the city could be forced to sign a settlement that makes them pay potentially hundreds of millions of dollars. So I think that's going to be, we need to know that resolution, and that resolution is supposed to be days away.
Errol Louis: Okay, oh days away, okay. We will certainly keep an eye out for that.
Kristen Shaughnessy: Before we let you go, we only have a quick minute or so left here. You went in 2014 to Israel and now you're planning to go back. This comes as recent reports that Iran fired missiles toward Israel.
Governor Cuomo: I support Israel. I'm a friend of Israel. I always have been. Most New Yorkers are. When you grow up, I'm a born and bred New Yorker, I am a little bit different. We have now a lot of new New Yorkers. I am an old New Yorker. And when you grow up as a New Yorker, you grow up with the Jewish community, best friends, I have two of my brothers-in-law are Jewish. I believe the relationship between Israel and the United States is seminal. I believe the relationship between Israel and New York is very, very important. I have worked on it with economic exchanges, cultural exchanges, et cetera. And I believe the time to show up when you are a friend is in the time of trouble. And when there were the suicide bombings I got on a plane and I went to Israel. When Hamas was sending missiles and building tunnels, I got on a plane and I went to Israel. Two nights ago, 20 missiles were launched against Israel in the Golan Heights. I called up the leadership of Israel and I said we would like to come and visit as a sign of solidarity. We also have a lot of economic issues that we are working on together. So I plan to go as soon as possible and whatever timeline fits for them, and we're talking about next week and I will represent all New Yorkers as a sign of solidarity. They are bombing Israel. It is a tough period in Israel. I want them to know that we are there and we support them.
Kristen Shaughnessy: Governor we want to thank you very much for joining Errol and I and we appreciate your comments.
Governor Cuomo: Always a pleasure, thank you.