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Cuomo Continues Trump Critique, Opponents Say Talk More About NY's Problems

Governor Andrew Cuomo
Pat Bradley/WAMC

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo continues to rail against President Trump’s tweets and comments to reporters. But some of his political opponents say the governor needs to talk more about issues related to New York.

At an appearance at the State Fair in Syracuse Wednesday, Cuomo commented on the felony conviction of President Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort in federal court in Virginia, and the guilty plea from Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, where Cohen implicated the president in a crime.

“Manafort and Cohen, I think are not just embarrassing for the president, and not just inherently condemning of the president. This was his lawyer and his campaign chairman,” Cuomo said. “There's not a lot of distance between those points."

Cuomo says if Trump were to pardon Cohen, it would be a “de facto silencing of a witness against him." The governor, a Democrat, says that would be “tantamount to obstruction of justice," and an impeachable offense.

Recently, the governor had to walk back remarks  from a few days ago when he said America “was never that great," saying he was “inartful” when he expressed the  view that the nation still has a ways to go to achieve equality for all.

Since then, he has devoted most of his public statements, and portions of his Twitter feed, to condemning the president and his actions.  

On Sunday, Cuomo spoke to a receptive audience at the First Baptist Church in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where he referred to the President as “King Trump," and “the divider in chief." 

“And I have a message for the president: Mr. Trump, I've known you for 30 years. You may be a slick salesman, who fooled many people in this country, but you didn't fool me and you didn't fool New Yorkers,” Cuomo said, to cheers from the church audience. “We know who you are and we're going to rise up and tell this nation the truth about who you are, because when the voice of division is raised, a chorus of unity must rise in response. And when a voice of anger and hate is raised, a chorus of hope and love must be raised in response.” 

Cuomo’s opponents in the governor’s race say he needs to focus more on New York’s problems and how he might resolve them.

Former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who is running as an independent candidate for governor, says the state has lost more than a million people in the eight years Cuomo has been in office, and his economic development programs haven’t worked.

“There are a lot of shortcomings,” said Miner. “And having been in charge of that for 8 years he’s got to answer for that. And apparently he doesn’t want to.”  

Miner says the governor’s administration has its own corruption problems. And she finds it ironic that the governor is quick to link Trump to the crimes of the president’s former campaign manager and chief fixer, when Cuomo’s campaign manager and fixer, former top aide Joe Percoco, was convicted on federal bribery charges and awaits sentencing this fall. Other former Cuomo associates are facing prison time for bid rigging.

“For a person who lives in a glass house, he shouldn’t be throwing stones,” said Miner. "He should at least recognize that the voters of the state of New York understand double standards and they will not tolerate it." 

Meanwhile, Cuomo’s opponent in the Democratic primary, Cynthia Nixon, held a news conference outside Trump Tower in mid-town Manhattan, where she and her supporters demanded that Cuomo give back $64,000 in campaign donations he received from Trump during Cuomo’s 2002 unsuccessful campaign for governor and for his run for attorney general in 2006.

Nixon says it’s hypocritical to keep the money.

“Cuomo didn’t have an excuse before for keeping Trump’s money,” said Nixon. “But he definitely doesn’t have any excuse now.” 

Cuomo said back in July that he did not intend to return the money. On Wednesday, in response to a question about accepting large campaign donations in general, he said he was not swayed by the views of a donor.

“If you are a person who is influenced by donors, you shouldn’t be in this business,” Cuomo said.

Later a spokeswoman for Cuomo’s campaign, Lis Smith, tweeted a response, saying “the joke” is on Trump and Nixon because Cuomo is using the money to help elect more Democrats to public office.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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