State Watch

Cuomo says Wolf, Cuccinelli violated oath of office and should be investigated

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Friday that acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and his deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, violated their oaths of office when they barred his state’s residents from participating in “trusted traveler programs.”

The remarks come a day after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) withdrew its decision to block New Yorkers from participating in the programs, which allow U.S. travelers quicker passage through borders and airport lines, after state lawmakers passed a law curtailing cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. 

Cuomo blasted the DHS policy as “political exploitation” and said Wolf and Cuccinelli “clearly had no basis whatsoever to do this” 

“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,” he said at a press conference. “It is illegal, what they did. And I believe acting Secretary Wolf and acting Deputy Cuccinelli, they violated their oath of office.”

“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,” he continued.

Cuomo noted that the policy led to longer lines at airports in New York in February and March — the same time as coronavirus cases were coming in from Europe and just before the Empire State emerged as the epicenter of the domestic COVID-19 outbreak.

“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,” he said. “I believe there are civil damages that New York state is owed, and we’ll be pursuing possible claims for that.”

Cuomo called on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, to investigate Wolf and Cuccinelli over the move.

He also called on Attorney General William Barr to open a probe but said he did not believe he would do so. 

The DHS’s reversal Thursday marked the culmination of a months-long feud with New York that started when the department retaliated for a law passed in December allowing residents to apply for driver’s licenses without having to prove they are in the U.S. legally. Several other states have similar laws in place, but New York was the only one cut out of the travel programs. 

Wolf said Thursday that changes to the New York law allowing for the sharing of Department of Motor Vehicles records between Washington and Albany led DHS to reverse itself.

“We appreciate the information sharing to [Customs and Border Protection] CBP for the trusted travel program, which enables DHS to move forward and begin once again processing New York residents under the Trusted Travel Program.  Nonetheless, local New York law continues to maintain provisions that undermine the security of the American people and purport to criminalize information sharing between law enforcement entities,” Wolf said in a statement.

Tags Andrew Cuomo Bennie Thompson Chad Wolf immigration enforcement Jerrold Nadler Ken Cuccinelli Nancy Pelosi New York Trusted Traveler Programs William Barr

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