By Jonathan Allen and David Shepardson
(Reuters) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state may seek damages after the Trump administration admitted making false statements in a U.S. lawsuit over New Yorkers being barred from a program that allows the use of expedited lanes at U.S. airports.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan admitted late Thursday it had made inaccurate statements in a lawsuit brought by New York state over the Trusted Traveler program. It said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would immediately lift the ban.
“I believe there are civil damages that New York State is owed and we’ll be pursuing possible claims for that,” Cuomo said. “It was a clear abuse of government power for political purposes.”
Cuomo suggested the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, and the acting deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, “violated their oath of office” and said they could face “possible criminal liability.”
DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Separately, Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer of New York asked DHS’s inspector general to investigate. “We do not have a full accounting of why and how false statements were made by DHS officials,” Schumer wrote. “Lying to a federal court is a very serious matter and there must be accountability for the persons involved.”
“They got caught. It was all politics, all the time,” Cuomo said Friday. “You can’t use the Department of Homeland Security as a political tool. It doesn’t work that way. And it’s not just not right, and unethical and immoral. It’s illegal.”
In February, DHS cut off New York from the program in response to the state’s passage last June of a law allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses and limiting federal access to license information.
The Trump administration acknowledged some other states and territories withheld driver information but had been allowed to participate.
New York sued DHS in February, saying the policy would prohibit 175,000 New Yorkers whose program membership expires this year from re-enrolling, and would “cut off” 80,000 New Yorkers with pending applications.
In April, the state amended a law that had limited federal immigration authorities from accessing some records from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen and David Shepardson; Editing by Richard Chang and Daniel Wallis)