Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo called on the U.S. Department of Justice and Congress to investigate the Department of Homeland Security's handling of the Trusted Traveler Program, after new information revealed DHS officials admitted to making false statements to justify the Department's banning of New Yorkers from the program earlier this year. Prior to this development, federal officials consistently and inaccurately insisted that New York's limitations on access to the state Department of Motor Vehicles database were unlike any other state. The Governor also announced the State will pursue civil damages from the Department of Homeland Security.
The Governor also provided an update on the recently formed multi-agency task force to combat violations of coronavirus-related regulations at bars and restaurants. Over the course of several days this week, the State Liquor Authority and New York State Police Task Force conducted nearly 1,100 compliance checks, documenting violations at 84 establishments and issuing 37 violations last night alone. Businesses found in violation of social distancing regulations face fines up to $10,000 per violation, while egregious violations can result in the immediate suspension of their liquor license.
The Governor also announced the Toronto Blue Jays will play their home games at Sahlen Field in Buffalo this season.
AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS are available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Good morning. Good to see everybody. Bright and happy, socially distanced. Masks. My Captain mask. Somebody sent it to me. Wear it in honor of Captain. Captain is having a difficult time with COVID also. Pack disruption, you know what pack disruption is? Dog has a sense of a pack, and all of a sudden other people come into the home and now the pack is disrupted. It's a very real issue that we're dealing with.
To my right, everybody knows Kelly Cummings, director of state operations. To my left, everybody knows Beth Garvey, special counsel to me. Today is day 146 in beautiful Albany. It is all good news today. 650 hospitalizations. 650 hospitalizations is about 56 lower than yesterday. It is the lowest since March 18th, so this is really good news, and exciting news. Good news for a Friday. 156 total ICUs, that's the lowest number of people we've had in an ICU since March 16th, so that is all really good news. Number of deaths, nine. When anyone dies it's not a good day. We want to get to a point where nobody dies in the State of New York, as impossible as that will be, but our thoughts and prayers are with the nine people who passed away. But that is also very very good news compared to where we were.
Infection rate, 76,000 tests taken yesterday. .9 percent positive, so that is also very good news. So on this Friday, there's going to be a lot to celebrate this weekend, not that this weekend is much different than during the week. We look across the regions of the state, it is all good news, no issues, you see a slight fluctuation, but you always see a slight fluctuation in the numbers. Look across New York City, same thing, slight fluctuation but all good news.
We are very proud of what New Yorkers have done. We're now protecting our progress, right, we just want to make sure we don't have a second wave or we don't have a ricochet where the virus comes from other states, or we don't have an increase from young people who are congregating. We went up the mountain, we went down the mountain. New Yorkers flattened the curve, but we don't want to do it again, right. One and done. Thank you, but no thank you. We don't want to go through it again.
One of the things we're watching are the bar and restaurant violations and the congregations in front of bars and restaurants. We believe that's connected to the increase in the number of young people, the infection rate among the number people, 21 to 30, went from nine to 13, so we're watching that. I've asked local governments repeatedly to step up and do the enforcement. That's what they're supposed to do, enforce the law. They're not enforcing it aggressively enough. I said the State Liquor Authority and the State Police would help, and we are doing just that. Yesterday, they went out last night, through primarily the downstate area, Manhattan, Long Island, Queens, Astoria, Rockville Centre, Baldwin, Jackson Heights, Lower East Side. They found a number of violations. They're issuing violations to 37 establishments today. So they're doing their job, they're doing it aggressively, but again, the State Police and the SLA are not going to be enough. Local government, stand up and do your job. NYPD, do your job. Nassau County police, do your jobs. Suffolk County police, do your job. Erie County the same thing. SLA and State Police will continue and they're there to work hand in hand with the local governments.
Something happened yesterday that was actually very troubling, and it's something you're aware of, I just want to bring it back and give you the context. Yesterday, this is on the Trusted Traveler Program, and this has been going on for six months. When I was a young man, I was very anxious to cut to the chase, and see wrongs righted quickly. You get a little older, you realize sometimes things have to play out before the truth will out but ultimately I believe the truth will out - Shakespeare's version of Venice, Lancelot, but that's Shakespeare.
Yesterday 2 o'clock in the afternoon Department of Homeland Security issues a statement that they are dropping their opposition to our lawsuit. We had sued the Department of Homeland Security for stopping the Trusted Traveler Program if you remember. Yesterday 2 o'clock Department of Homeland Security drops the lawsuit and they drop the lawsuit and they say well because New York amended the Green Light Law so now there's information sharing so we're dropping the lawsuit. Came out of the blue. I do a statement in response to their dropping it saying basically I'm glad it's over.
Later in the day the Department of Justice files court papers saying they're dropping the lawsuit because revelations have come to light suggesting that the Department of Homeland Security's position was not truthful.
Department of Homeland Security made a startling revelation yesterday late afternoon. New York State was not the only state to have a green light law and as there were other states that also had the Green Light Law there was nothing unique about New York to justify their punitive action against New York because there were other states that had also passed the Green Light Law.
It is impossible that Department of Homeland Security just figured that out yesterday afternoon. It's impossible because I have said it 480 times. Everybody knew there were other states with Green Light Laws. It has been written about in a number of papers. What happened yesterday is they got caught. They got caught. That's what happened yesterday and the Department of Justice, the Southern District, said, I'm not going to advance a lawsuit with false representations. Okay? That was yesterday.
So now let's go back just to review this. You remember the Trusted Traveler Program. January, February, President Trump does the State of the State, State of the Union. State of the Union address, President Trump makes a point of saying he is going to be very aggressive on the issue of immigration and that New York's sanctuary policies got in the way of ICE doing their work. All right, that's in the State of the Union.
Same day, Chad Wolf, Acting Secretary of Department of Homeland Security goes on TV, Fox News, and says New York's Green Light Law compromises customs and border patrol's ability to do their job and therefore they are canceling the Trusted Traveler Program. Same night as the State of the Union address.
Next day we get a letter from the Trump Administration saying the Trusted Traveler Program no longer will be eligible for people of the state of New York - 200,000 people who use Trusted Traveler Program. Trusted Traveler Program allows a person to get pre-clearance on border checks so Trusted Traveler Program, you show up at Department of Homeland Security, you have an in-person interview, you show all your papers, you show your passports, they certify you that you are a citizen and then when you come across the border you show your certification. It frees up you from having to wait on line going through the customs and border check every time you come in. It's better for customs and border patrol because they get a full check, it speeds line, etcetera.
So February 5 they say New York is out of the Trusted Traveler Program. February 10 a DHS memo gets leaked. BuzzFeed runs a leaked DHS memo. The memo from DHS says the Trump administration drafted a number of options to penalize states and politically make the point that they're aggressive on immigration and other states aren't. The plans include retaliation measures against states that limit access to records such as cutting the TSA pre-check which is exactly what the Trusted Traveler Program is, okay? That's a DHS memo. I say it is political extortion. We disagree with their position on drivers licenses for undocumented people, which we do, because we disagree we're going to revoke participation in a program called Global Entry-Trusted Traveler Program. That is what I said and now we know that is what they did.
I also said, "By the way 15 other states in the United States have the same program. If 15 other states have the same Green Light program, why just New York? There are Republican states that have the Green Light program. Why would you just eliminate Trusted Traveler Program for New York when 15 other states have the law?" I said, "There are more than a dozen states." So, more than dozen, about 15, you also have Washington D.C. in there and we count as one of the states. There are more than a dozen states including red states with similar laws, but President Trump and his enablers are once again taking aim at New York's economy. We knew there were other states that have the same law. I then said, "They disagree with our Green Light law, many other states have it, but it triggers the immigration debate they are so fond of having, polarization, et cetera. Their Chairman of the Congressional Committee, Representative Bennie Thompson said, "It is clearly a blatant attempt by the White House to score political points and perpetuate a partisan fight with New York elected officials - February 6th.
February 12th, I call their bluff. I said always "Is your issue really our Green Light law? Is that why you took away the Trusted Traveler Program. I tell you what. Anyone who applies for the Trusted Traveler Program, I will make available all the DMV data. If that's what you say it is, I'll do it. February 13th we had a meeting in the White House with the President, with Wolf and his cohort Cuccinelli and I said I will pass the law that would ostensibly address their issue. "We can't give you the Trusted Traveler program because you won't give us DMV information." "Okay, you got it. That's your issue, I'll do it. You have it. April, we pass that law in the budget. If a person applies to the Trusted Traveler Program, I would give the DMV data. That was the only apparent rationale they had. You know what has happened since April? Nothing, nothing, they have done absolutely nothing since April. It has been 6 months since they started this political exploitation of New York. It's been 6 months since they clearly had no basis whatsoever to do this. What they said yesterday in dropping the lawsuit was, "There are other states that also had Green Light laws. There are also other states that had Green Light laws."
We knew that and I've said that, and I said it to them and I've said it publicly, and it's no secret that 15 state have Green Light laws. You just realized that yesterday? You just realized the state of the laws in this country yesterday? Is that plausible is that at all plausible? Is that at all credible? We just realized yesterday that New York isn't the only state that had Green Light Laws. Why didn't you look at the law? Why didn't you listen to Andrew Cuomo when he said 11 times there are other states that have Green Light Laws? You are the Department of Homeland Security, is it plausible that you didn't know what the laws were in this nation? No. They got caught. It was all politics all the time. It was all exploitation all the time. And they hurt this state because of it. You cannot use government for political exploitation. News flash - it's called government. You can't play politics with government. You can't use the Department of Justice as a political tool. You can't use the Department of Homeland Security as a political tool, it doesn't work that way. And it's not just 'not right' and unethical and immoral, it's illegal, it's illegal. I was a federal Cabinet Secretary, I was Attorney General for the State of New York - it is illegal what they did. And I believe it violates, Acting Secretary Wolf and Acting Deputy Cuccinelli, they violated their oath of office. Nowhere in your oath of office does it say you can use government resources to advance political purposes. Six months you filed court papers making representations that this was a bonfire act by the federal government? And now yesterday you say, "We had no idea that it wasn't just New York, there were actually other states."
I believe Mr. Wolf and Mr. Cuccinelli have possible criminal liability. I believe there is civil liability. It was a clear abuse of government power for political purposes. I called it out as soon as it was done, I called it out in February, I called it out multiple times since then. It was brought to the attention of the highest people in the White House and it continued and it continued and it continued, and it has done significant damage. Without the Trusted Traveler Program, you know what else happened? The lines at the airports backed up. You know when the lines airports backed up? In February, in March. You know what was going on in the airports in February and March? What was going on? It's when the COVID cases were coming from Europe. That's when the COVID cases were coming from Europe, and they were playing their political games and they backed up the lines of people waiting to get through Customs and Border Patrol in dense areas, in tight quarters, waiting on a line because they were playing politics.
Attorney General Barr heads a department called the Department of Justice. The concept of justice is relevant to the Department of Justice, it's why the name is Department of Justice. I don't know that Mr. Barr is going to go down in the book of the most distinguished Attorneys General of the United States, but if he wanted to have a modicum of credibility, you know that this agency played politics, you know that they lied. They've admitted that they lied. Can you allow this blatant, egregious misconduct to go uninvestigated? Now, if you can do what he's done at the Department of Justice I guess you can let anything go. But this is really egregious. I also call on Speaker Pelosi, Congressman Nadler and Congressman Bennie Thompson to do a Congressional investigation on this issue. It has hurt New Yorkers, it's hurt our economy.
It's only one in a barrage of pollical abuses that we've endured by this federal government. But it's emblematic, and it has to stop. And I hope they do their legal duty, because there is no, no plausible way you spent six months, you filed papers, you contested a lawsuit, you inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of people, and just yesterday, it was revealed to you that there were other states like New York. I believe there are civil damages that New York State is owed and we'll be pursuing possible claims for that.
On a lighter note, I spoke to the commissioner of baseball this morning, because we never give up in New York, never give up, never give up, never give up, quote attributed to Winston Churchill. I don't believe Winston Churchill really said it, but quote is attributed to Winston Churchill. That's good enough. The Toronto Blue Jays we are still pursuing to play in Buffalo. It's not done yet but I had a good conversation with the commissioner this morning, fingers crossed, fingers crossed, maybe we get the Toronto Blue Jays in Buffalo after all. And we didn't give up, because we are New York tough, smart, united, disciplined and loving.