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U.S. House Speaker McCarthy removed in historic vote

Gov. Cuomo On WAMC's Northeast Report 6/29/20

File photo: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
Pat Bradley
File photo: Ex-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks with WAMC's Alan Chartock on June 29, 2020.

And top of the morning or afternoon or whenever you're listening to this program, right Gov?

No, it's just afternoon, doctor. I don't think you can-

You never know, you see, people hear at different times, they save it up, they listen in the middle of the night. You know, they don't, they don't get enough of you and they want they want to hear you. You know, whenever.

Yeah, right, this-

So, so whatever. So I have a question for you. You know, you've asked President Trump for some resources for New York, and you've made it very clear, we really can't proceed without those resources. And so far, as far as I know, what do I know? They have not been forthcoming. So now, in your morning briefing, today, you sounded like you're a little- You're ready to give up being Mr. Nice Guy, and that you might be going after him. Is that is that a wrong, wrong sense on my part?

Yeah, I don't think it's Mr. Nice Guy or Mr. Not-Nice guy. I call it the way I see it. I always have with him. I probably- No one has been more critical of the President. No other governor has been more critical. And I have a long history of criticizing him and his policies and what he's done. From his border policy, the wall policy, imprisoning children policy, what he did to us- He's been vicious to the state of New York. I don't think there's been a president who has been more openly hostile. SALT, no assistance. So when he, when he, uh, hurts us, I call it the way I see it. There's a, times that he's been helpful. He helped us build out Javits. He helped us with ventilators. He helped us with PPE equipment during COVID. I said that too- On the state and local assistance, which they would have to be self-destructive not to give state and local assistance. He's, he's worried about the economy. He thinks he's going to rise or fall on the economy. You haven't had an economy come back after a situation like this. After you starve state and local governments and make them lay off people. So I believe that there will be a federal aid package. I don't believe he'll be able to pass a bill, unless he has a federal age, aid package. I don't believe Speaker Pelosi will pass a bill without a federal aid package. And he's going to need other legislation between now and Election Day. But what he's done on COVID is is what I found reprehensible today. I mean, and the results, is just facts. Doctor, you have states all across the nation that have the COVID virus transmission rate going through the roof, you have cases exploding. This country is now in worse shape than Europe, which had the problem before us. There's no excuse for it. And it's, it's from him. It's from him denying the problem. It's from him saying, "Just open up! Open up the economies," pressuring governors to open up the economies. No masks, no socially distance. If you deny a problem, you refuse to solve it. He has denied the problem from day one. So he is refused to solve it because he doesn't want to see it. Except it's a virus and it doesn't read his tweets. And it doesn't respond to his politics. And rather than bring science to the table, he brought politics. And now this nation is in real trouble. And now a state like New York, where we did it right, we have the infection rate down. Now, we may very well get re-infected from these other states that have this high infection rate. And then travelers come through New York, which is just what happened to us the first time when we had travelers come here from Europe, who had the virus, and the federal government didn't even know it. Because they were in denial even back then, he couldn't be bothered with it. And why did New York have the spike? Because 3 million people got on planes from Europe and came here, doctor. When they were still thinking the virus was in China, that's what happened to us. And it'll happen again, with people now coming from our own states. That's what I was talking about today. Just admit the truth. You see the numbers, they're undeniable and sent a signal to the people of this country, show some leadership say: "We have a real issue. And we better get serious, because people are dying." And in terms of helping the economy, this didn't help the economy. Every time the virus goes up, the stock market goes down. So he didn't accomplish what he wanted to accomplish, which was a quick economic bounce, and more people will die because of it. That's what I said this morning.

Now, following along on that, the president has recently let it be known that there are some people who don't like him, and therefore he might not win again. There are those who are thinking this is a prelude to his getting out of the, of the campaign, basically quitting and not running a second time. What do you make of that?

Oh no. He is too much of a Narcissus, to be that reasonable. No, he's going to run and he's going to lose. Because he is, he- And it's all about him. How he handled COVID, how he handled the murder of George Floyd, where he is a divisive force. You know, he thought he was going to play to the haters. No one likes racial division. No American likes it. And it's not that he was refusing to solve it, he actually caused it. The COVID virus he didn't cause, but he refused to acknowledge it and refused to solve it. George Floyd, he has been a source of racial tension by what he said and what he's done. And no American, no American will tolerate that.

You're calling on the president to sign an executive order mandating mass use for the entire country. I like that idea, I think it's terrific. But he doesn't wear a mask, He doesn't show that kind of leadership. And he wants to keep holding big rallies. So is there any chance you he'll do the right thing? Some of the people who, you know, work for him are calling for everybody be wearing a mask? What do you think your chances are of getting them to do it?

It is inexplicable, his posture. He sees the numbers going up. He knows that he pushed governors to make the wrong decision. He now has his health officials saying, "You should wear a mask," and he's doing the exact opposite. He's demonstrating irresponsibility and it comes from him. You know, it literally- "The fish stinks from the head", right? It literally comes from him. And I said to him: "Sign an executive order that says you must wear a mask in public. At least it would show you're serious about the issue. And you don't play politics with the issue." He doesn't want to tell people to wear a mask because he doesn't want to admit that there's a problem with the virus. It's that simple. And people know better. They see the death rate, they see the cases going up. He's living in his own world. He's just incredible, what he is saying.

When you let him have it like this, does he ever get back to you? Does he ever say- I mean, you know, he's treated other people, other than you, very badly. Mouths off about them, he calls them names. Not that much with you.

What do you mean not that much with me? He's been vicious to me.

I mean, not that much with you.

But he's been vicious to me. He's been called me incompetent, Fredo- the Fredo stuff with my brother. Oh, no, no, he's been vicious. Yeah, no, he gets very annoyed. He's very thin skinned and he gets very annoyed. And he he tells me when he's very annoyed. I mean, we have a frank conversation. But you know, it is what it is. Alan, money- And I again when he is good to New York, I think they did a great job on setting up Javits, 2500 beds emergency hospital during COVID. I said it. But when you're when you're causing a national viral outbreak, that's killing people. I'm going to say that too.

Well I hope so. Last week, we talked about how you would enforce the 14 day quarantine on non-essential workers traveling in states with high in- From states with high COVID-19 rates. How is that process going right now? Is New York actually monitoring whether people are complying?

We are actually taking it even a step further. I have the Port Authority, working with the airlines to have people fill out a form when they land, and they are landing in New York. And most of the airlines thus far have been cooperative. We don't have border control, that's the Department of Homeland Security and the Customs and Border Patrol. They actually have jurisdiction, we run the airports. But we don't do the border control that's federal. So we're going to the airlines themselves and saying "We would like them to ask their passengers to fill out forms when they land." You know how you fill out those landing cards in certain countries when you come in?


And so far, the airlines have been very cooperative. So that would be very helpful because then we would just have a database from the passengers themselves.

I'm going to predict that they won't comply.

Who? The people, or the airlines?

No, the airlines.

Well, if the airlines- The airlines want to have a good relationship with the airport, you know. That relationship needs to work both ways between the Port Authority and the airlines, the airlines. I think will be surprisingly cooperative. But I've been wrong before.

Well, have you had conversation with any of the muckety mucks?

Yes and they have been surprisingly cooperative.

Huh, well. You know, New York State Republican chair Nick Langworthy was at the Capitol today and he says that "The legislature gave you too much executive power during the pandemic, and then he left Albany for the rest of the year." Does he have a point? Should the legislature come back to work on Coronavirus bills?

Well, first of all, that's not a fact, right? Not that facts ever get in the way of what they say. But the legislature has met several times and passed dozens of bills, since I've had the emergency power. And I've signed many of those bills. They were just here a couple of weeks ago. So I don't know what he's talking about. But in terms of the overall rhetoric, yeah, he's a mouthpiece for Trump. What they're saying is, "Stop the emergency powers that the governor has, because there's no emergency. There's no emergency because there's no Coronavirus. Everything's fine." What are you talking about? "Take away the governor's emergency power that says we should wear masks. No reason to wear masks. Take away the governor's emergency power that says we should socially distance, we shouldn't socially distance. Take away the governor's emergency powers that has a phased reopening. And his, and now has Western New York and Buffalo in phase four of the reopening. Yes, stop these phases. Just open the economy. Everything's fine. What are you worried about? This is a democratic delusion that there's a virus. Can you see the virus? Can you show it to me put it in your hand and let me see it? No, there's no virus just reopen." Yeah, I know. We tried that. We tried that President Trump, we tried that Republican chairman. Call up Florida and call up Texas and call up Arizona and ask them how that went. And how those governors that followed that guidance are now doing 180 degree turn. 180. Now they're closing up after reopening. Come on.

Now, that's an interesting point. You know, up to now the Republicans, people like Lindsey Graham and others have been, you know, following along with the president and doing whatever the president says because after all, the republicans for whatever their reasons are, you know, solidly behind Trump. So the question is, are you seeing a crack in the Republican support for the president from people like Lindsey Graham, or people like, you know, his own health care people? What- Do you think, do you think there's a change?

Oh, there's a crack. I'll tell you where you can see the crack. You mentioned Lindsey Graham. Lindsey Graham says the other day, he's not going to confirm the President's new appointee for the Southern District US Attorney position. That he's going to honor a senate tradition, where the home senator can put a hold on an appointment in his or her state. Why would Lindsey Graham stop a presidential confirmation mission of the US attorney, and it was a whole hubbub, right? Last week, Barr came in, fire the person, the person- The whole hubbub. And then Lindsey Graham says, "By the way, I'm not going to confirm the person if the New York Democrat Senator puts a hold on it, Schumer or Gillibrand." That's a crack, doctor.

So is he worried about his own political fortunes is that what's happening seems to be with some of these senators now. They got to decide if, "I'm not gonna risk Trump coming at me. On the one hand, on the other hand, do I worry about my own reelection?"

Yeah, I think that's Lindsey Graham, thinking "I may be on the other side of this equation. And I don't want the Democrats appointing US attorneys in my state without my approval." You know, it's a convenient little relationship, By the way. Us attorneys in dependent, the top law enforcement, but they can't be confirmed unless the the Senator from the home state signs off. So I read that to mean Senator Graham is thinking this you may be on the other foot and he doesn't want to have a US Attorney appointed in his state by President Joe Biden. Without him signing off.

Interesting. This this New York thing is really I'm sorry for being so outspoken on this, it's so disgraceful. The idea that you would take a US Attorney studying going after some of your you know, stuff and, and fire him. You know, this is this about it is about as low as we get, isn't it?

You know, look, I don't think there's anything surprising here. You know, you have an impression of the Justice Department that this President has never shared. The Justice Department he appoints, it's his agency and they'll do as he sees fit. He's made that clear from day one. He's never had this concept of Justice as an independent agency with professionals who just do their job. It's always been politicized. And that's what happened here. Again, Attorney General Barr didn't like what the US Attorney was doing. They didn't appoint him. And they wanted him out. They got stymied, because to put in the new person, they need the Senate confirmation. And that's where Lindsey Graham pulled the rug out from under them, as far as I'm concerned, is what it looks like. But I'm not shocked at what they do. I mean, you had the Attorney General, basically is an advance man next to the White House after the George, George Floyd murder when the President morphed the course the street to, for a photo op-op holding up the Bible in front of the church. The Attorney General was directing the moving of the crowd. That's justice?

Let me ask you this, Mayor Bill de Blasio is agreed to cut a billion dollars from the New York Police Department but with several councilors have been calling for it. Is this a good idea?

I don't think you can do this piecemeal. Not if you want to do it right. You have had a clarion call from across the country, clarion call across the state, people saying: "We're unhappy with our public safety function. We're unhappy with our police department. We're unhappy with the way- The relationship between the community and the police department." And that's George Floyd, and I say, "Great, long time coming. Could have been 30 years ago with Rodney King, with Amadou Diallo, could have been six years ago with Eric Garner, but it’s here now. Great. Let's redesign the police department. Let's sit down at a table, blank piece of paper, bring in the community groups, bring in the police department, bring in the electeds, and let's redesign the whole thing." I don't believe you can do this, "I'm going to cut a billion, I'm going to cut 500 million," What is it, Alan? What is the police department? What do you want it to do? And what do you not want it to do? Demilitarize the police? Okay, what does that mean? What equipment shouldn't they use? What processes shouldn't they use? Excessive use of force. Okay, what's the policy? Co-responders with social services. Okay, how does that work? What services? Substance abuse and mental health. How big a police department do you want? What does the civilian Review Board look like? What do we do about complaints? Redesign it, that's how you capture the moment. And that's how you restore the respect and trust with the community. Not these one off, they do here in the legislature in Albany also, ban tear gas, that's the answer. Ban rubber bullets, that's the answer. Video cameras, that's the answer. No, it's deeper than that. You have to redesign the whole function. The police department does not exist absent the community's assent. The community pays for them. They're not an independent entity apart and aside from the community, the community gets whatever police department wants, they're paying for it with their tax dollars. So let's not take the cheap, easy way out, sit down and redesign the whole function. That's what I have them doing. By passing an executive order that said, "If you want money next year, you have to pass a redesign of the police department."

Is it working?

Well. It's not, it's not done. They have to have it done before next April. But that process is going to drive real change. Can you imagine a conversation in a place like New York City between the NYPD and the community and you have to get it passed by the Council? That's how you get change.

You said that you'll make a decision on Wednesday, about whether we can eat indoors in in New York, and what information do you need, in order to decide? I mean, you're to be congratulated, yesterday I think there was one death in New York, one. That's extraordinary. So Isn't that enough?

The numbers are down now. But you have to watch this beast, you know, we may have it on the canvas, but the beast is not out. And I've been talking to New Jersey and Connecticut, we're all looking at what's going on around the country. The indoor dining is creating issues around the country. It's partially the density, it's partially the air-conditioning system. We're also mandating in malls that they have a, what's called a HIPAA filter. They have filters that can actually filter out the COVID virus. We're recommending them for offices and businesses. But the indoor dining has created issues. Also New York City we have issues to begin with, compliance is not that good in New York City by citizens. And I've been reinforcing that message. The local government is supposed to be enforcing the compliance. It's their main function in this, the local governments, they are doing testing with us, that's a joint function, they're supposed to set up tracing. And the tracing has to work, which means they have to get the information from people that's working plus or minus. And then their real responsibility is to enforce the compliance. You know, the mask is a law. Socially distancing is a law. If you don't wear masks and we don't socially distance that virus is coming back up. That's the only way we got it down. We get lax, we get undisciplined it's going to go right up and they're not doing enough enforcement by the local governments. And I say to mayors all across the state every day, I say "Look I'm taking-" If you want to get purely political, because the the mayor's don't like to deal with it, the county executives don't like to do it, because it's not popular. You know?


You don't want your police department telling citizens to wear masks and to socially distance. It's not a pleasant function. I get that, But I said, "Look, they're going to be upset at you for enforcing the mask rule. Blame me. Tell them "well the governor passed the mask rule.'" You know, I'm making all the decisions on the phasing and the opening and the closing, and the opening of schools and the closing of schools. All that legal authority with the state, they don't have any legal authority there, and that means they don't have any legal liability. So fine. I will take the blame on that. I'll take the heat.

Are you calling them cowardly? These, you know, local leaders?

No, but they have to enforce the compliance and their police department has to do it. All it takes is one, Alan. We had an outbreak at a graduation in Westchester, one student from Florida, infected 13 people. We have an aluminum plant outbreak- It's always the same, one person can infect 70 or 80 people. Our first hotspot, New Rochelle, one person, 200 people. That's all it takes. So they have to be diligent. We have that issue in New York City. On top of that, the viral spread across the nation. I am very worried that they're going to get on planes. They're going to fly through New York or fly into New York. And we're going to get the virus coming in from the airports again.

And how do you stop it?

You don't. We have quarantine for the highest infected states. But you're talking about 30 states now that have the virus going up.

Let me ask a first question. Is the President of the United States responsible for tens of thousands of deaths? Yes or no?

COVID virus is responsible for tens of thousands, like you said.

But, how you play the carom off the wall is so important.

Look, I believe in New York. I believe this- I'll get myself into trouble for you.

Good, good.

We have- If New Yorkers did not do what New Yorkers did, you would have had tens of thousands more deaths in New York. All the projections on New York, Alan? 120,000 hospitalizations, 140,000 hospitalizations, we only had 18, 18. 120, 140, 160? All the geniuses, we had a team because New Yorkers change their behavior, and quote unquote, bent the curve. None of the experts when I first sat with the- I was going over my notes the other day. None of them believed we could do that. And these were the best minds in the business, these are the minds that were advising the president- The Gates funded model that the White House was using, 100,000 hospitalizations.

Governor, I have only a few seconds of really precious time with you. So I wanted to ask you whether it's time to ban all fireworks in New York State?

I don't know what is going on. I don't know what is going on. You can be in New York City, it sounds like the Wild West at night. Even in Albany, I'll tell you the truth. I don't know what has happened. You know, it's- I don't remember a year like this, doctor. I really don't. And I want to understand it better. Anecdotally, I think it's out of control.

And in order to get that to stop, you pass a law, you pass an executive order. What do you do?

Well, I want to get some facts first. We've, we've dealt with it legislatively before, but I want to understand what is happening this year. I don't know if it's just anecdotal, or if my hearing has gotten better or just happened to be in a location. But it's especially New York City. I mean, it's a major problem.

Does Captain crawl under the bed when it's- When he hears fireworks?

He doesn't, but I jump out of the bed. And I've been in Albany. It started weeks ago in Albany.

Yeah. Do you think the Albany mayor is doing enough? Because there's an awful lot of talk about, you know, murderers and terrible things happening. Doesn't the buck stops with the mayor?

The buck stops with the mayor, the buck stops with the governor. I don't know if the police have too much going on. I don't know if it's the disruption that's going on. I don't know. I don't know what it is. But it has to be something I'll tell you that because I've never seen it like this and Albany also. I'm telling you, I hear it in my bed every night.

Well, listen, I just want to say once more, thank you for coming on with us. I watch you on the tube in the mornings in the evenings. I don't know how you're doing it, Governor, you just, I don't want you to kill yourself here. Just be very, very careful. And give yourself a little time. Take care, okay?

I have a clone. I want to thank you for passing on that tip in your column this week, by the way.

Oh you did- People may not know they're- I'm talking about a lady who, who wrote me a letter asking me to get you together with her and described herself as you know, is very attractive. And I wrote that column and I said, "I know he reads my stuff. That'll be good enough."

Yeah, would you did no screening, you had no follow up questions, nothing? I'm on my own?

You're on you're on your own. I just didn't want to be regarded as a, you know, a purveyor of women. So, so it's great to talk to you.

Thank you doctor, thank you very much. Bye bye.


Dr. Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the University at Albany. He hosts the weekly Capitol Connection series, heard on public radio stations around New York. The program, for almost 12 years, highlighted interviews with Governor Mario Cuomo and now continues with conversations with state political leaders. Dr. Chartock also appears each week on The Media Project and The Roundtable and offers commentary on Morning Edition, weekdays at 7:40 a.m.
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