By MARINA VILLENEUVE and MICHAEL HILL
Updated: July 24, 2020 07:19 PM
Created: July 24, 2020 02:36 PM
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for federal probes into New York's ejection from trusted traveler security programs Friday, claiming it was an illegal act of political abuse by Trump administration officials.
The Democratic governor's charge came a day after Republican President Donald Trump's administration reversed itself and told a court it had misrepresented the facts in a lawsuit over the programs that allow vetted travelers to avoid long security lines at airports. The Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday that New Yorkers would once again be allowed to enroll and re-enroll in Global Entry and other federal travel programs.
"They got caught. It was all politics all the time. It was all exploitation all the time," an irate-sounding Cuomo told reporters at a briefing.
He said the move increased congestion at airports this year at the same time the coronavirus was spreading from Europe.
"It is illegal what they did," he said.
Cuomo called for investigations by Attorney General William Barr and congressional Democrats, adding that the state will seek civil damages from the DHS. The governor singled out DHS acting Secretary Chad Wolf and acting deputy secretary Ken Cuccinelli for scorn.
"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 said.
The Trump administration in February said it was booting New York from the programs because a newly enacted state law allowing unauthorized immigrants to get driver's licenses had cut off some federal access to state motor vehicle records.
But in a court filing Thursday, federal attorneys representing the DHS disclosed that federal officials had misled the court about some key facts. For instance, the administration had incorrectly claimed that New York's policy limiting access to criminal history information found in motor vehicle records was unique among the states.
Several states plus Washington, D.C., also don't provide access to driving history information, the lawyers wrote. And yet all of those states, including California, were allowed to remain in the program.
Sen. Charles Schumer on Friday separately asked for an investigation by the DHS's inspector general due to "potential violations of criminal law."
A Department of Justice spokesperson said the agency had no comment on the request for an investigation. An email was sent to the DHS seeking comment.
In its readmittance announcement Thursday, DHS officials said while New York amended its law to restore some federal access, it's still "antithetical" to the agency's mission and data access policies.
"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.
(Copyright 2020 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)