Cuomo Calls for Investigation Into NY's ‘Illegal' Ejection from Trusted Traveler Program

“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, slamming Department of Homeland Security officials as "liars."

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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 governor’s charge came a day after 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 announced Thursday that New Yorkers would once again be allowed to enroll and re-enroll in Global Entry and other federal travel programs.

In a court filing late Thursday, lawyers from the justice department admitted to the judge that "inaccurate or misleading statements" were made, and they apologized to the court.

“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, slamming Department of Homeland Security officials as "liars."

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 Homeland Security. 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.

The Department of Homeland Security has suspended Global Entry and several other trusted traveler programs for all residents of New York. Myles Miller reports.

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.

"You know that this agency played politics. You know that they lied," Cuomo said.

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.

The ban from the Trusted Traveler program was due to New York's Green Light Law, the DHS said in February, a law that grants driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. The department said at the time that the state's refusal to allow customs officials access the DMV data, as a means of tracking criminals or terrorists crossing borders, was the reason for New York's expulsion.

The state did agree to share some DMV information in April, but Homeland Security did not change the ban at that time.

Thursday's filing said that access to the Trusted Traveler program would be restored "effective immediately" for New Yorkers, however the department said that due to the coronavirus pandemic, new Trusted Traveler applications will not get processed until September.

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