Dan Goldman (photo: @dangoldmanforny)
Max Politics Podcast: Dan Goldman Runs for Congress in the New NY-10
Recorded July 8, 2022
Listen to the audio here, or at Max Politics wherever you get podcasts.
Democratic primary day: August 23, 2022
District: Lower Manhattan & parts of Brooklyn (see map here)
Ben Max: [Longer intro…] Dan Goldman, thank you very much for being here and taking the time. How are you today?
Dan Goldman: I’m great, Ben, thanks so much for having me on.
Ben Max: So explain just a little bit of your background and resume, we can get to other pieces in a moment. But those are the big and broad strokes of your recent high-profile work. Start us off with your brief overall pitch here in terms of your rationale, why you’re running for Congress in this new 10th district of New York, and why you want to represent the district in the House of Representatives.
Dan Goldman: Well, Ben. The threats that we are facing around the country and within the city to our basic foundations of democracy, our free and fair elections, did not end in 2020. And in fact, January 6 was just the beginning, not the end of the Republican efforts to change laws around the country to allow Donald Trump to steal the next election. It is not a joke. There are laws that are being put forward in many states, which will allow the state legislatures to overrule the vote of the people if there are allegations, just mere allegations of fraud. So this is very, very serious. It’s far more serious than I think a lot of people recognize. And as someone who has been on the frontlines in Congress, fighting to defend and protect our democracy in leading the impeachment investigation, I am uniquely qualified to take on this very, very important fight to protect and defend our democracy because without our free and fair elections and without our democracy, we cannot put forward, we cannot move forward on any of the policy goals that so many of us in this Democratic primary share.
And so I want to get down to Washington to be the bulwark against Trump and the Republican Party, which are not only undermining our democracy, but undermining our fundamental rights. And I think we need new and fresh voices with creative ideas for how to tackle long-standing problems where the same old playbook has not worked. I used some of that same creativity in proving the case against Donald Trump as part of the impeachment, and I’m hopeful of getting the support of the voters in the district to go back to Washington and use that creativity to defend our democracy, protect our fundamental rights, and move forward, actually make some achievements to make the lives of the families and the constituents in the district better.
Ben Max: Let’s say you’re elected here and you take office in January, and let’s say, which it’s definitely not a given, but let’s say Democrats remain in the majority in the House and you’re part of that House majority. What kind of tools would you try to use to do what you just outlined in terms of trying to not let Republicans subvert election results and to preserve the democratic process in the United States? What are some of the specific ways that that can be done?
Dan Goldman: Well, one thing that I would want to initiate is some sort of public hearings on disinformation and false misinformation that Republicans are spreading about the elections in this country that appear to be their very thin basis for passing many of these laws. There is very, very extensive statistical data that shows that voter fraud is not a thing. To the extent that voter fraud happens, it happens so sporadically and individually that there is no fear of voter fraud leading to any uncertainty in elections. But that is the basis for these Republican legislators to pass these laws, and it is bogus. So the best way to spread that news, to explain that to the American people, is to do it publicly through Congress, through hearings, and so that is one thing that I would call for is. Let’s lay it all out.
Donald Trump initiated an election integrity commission or something led by Kris Kobach right when he took office. It disbanded within a few months without producing anything because there is nothing. Well, let’s actually have some Democratic hearings that will expose the fraudulent misrepresentations, the disinformation, that the Republicans are putting forward in order to justify these laws. The American people need to understand in a way that they don’t right now that voter fraud is not a thing and it’s not a foundation, or it doesn’t need correcting by any laws. So that’s one example.
There are other examples I have for other different areas. Gun control, for an example. We have for too long begged our Republicans in the House and the Senate to come together to do gun control legislation. It hasn’t worked. We got a little bit this most recent time because the Republican talking points failed. There wasn’t a mental health issue with a Buffalo shooter, he was just a raging antisemite and racist. The school in Uvalde was well secured by armed officers, and that didn’t work because they were afraid of a semiautomatic weapon. The Republicans were backed in a corner and they had no explanation for why they weren’t going to do anything, so they did something, but it’s not enough. So let’s investigate the gun manufacturers and the gun dealers who have so much control over Republicans in Congress. Let’s see what they know about what their marketing and advertising does in relation to these mass shootings. Let’s see if they’re targeting 18 to 22 year olds, who are young with these semiautomatic weapons, which are the most profitable for them. Are they putting profits over people’s lives? This is the kind of creative thinking that we need in Congress because we can’t continue to operate as if the Republicans are good faith actors when they’re not. They act in bad faith these days, so we have to figure out alternative ways to put pressure on them to bring them to the table.
Ben Max: The hearings, you mentioned on misinformation and election integrity, would those be in Washington, D.C.? Could you foresee a strategy where you try to take those on the road in some way and actually go to places in the country where you know Donald Trump’s hold on the electorate seems very strong and try to actually go into people’s communities and present more facts locally? Do you think enough gets out there from Washington? These hearings on the January 6, 2021 insurrection seem to be getting a lot of attention. They’re getting a lot of viewership. It’s not, of course, always clear who that is and if it’s all Democrats basically watching, but is that one way to potentially break through? Do you have any sort of strategies as to how you reach this segment of the population that seems to really operate in a different media ecosystem, operating under a different set of quote unquote alternative facts here? Any thoughts on how to really break through on that?
Dan Goldman: I think you’ve hit one of the biggest problems right on the head because so many Americans are not getting the truth. And it’s not just about as you point out voter fraud, it’s about the 2020 election. The number of people in America who believe that it was a fraudulent election is startling, it is disconcerting, and it is a reflection on the fact that Democrats, I think, need better messaging, need better messengers, but need I agree with you — different tactics and a little bit more creativity. We have to go to the people themselves, we have to reach them. And I think that we should use some of your creative ideas about engaging state legislators. That’s something that I’ve mentioned before is getting state legislators on the Democratic side involved and trying to help them bring information. I frankly think that we should use paid advertising in some of these states just to provide information because people are living in a very, as you point out, a very narrow Fox News-driven media ecosystem with these right wing alt-right websites. They’re concealing the facts. They are absolutely misinformation vehicles that are concealing what is actually happening, and if we don’t all agree on the facts, it’s very hard to move forward. So we’re in a very unusual and unprecedented time where we’re not arguing about the same facts and which way to use those facts to improve lives of Americans. We’re arguing about the facts, and if we don’t agree on the facts, then we can have a discussion about the best way forward.
Ben Max: As a former lead counsel in an impeachment inquiry of a president, as former assistant U.S. attorney, you must have unique perspective on what the Department of Justice is and isn’t doing related to the January 6 interaction, related to the outcomes of some of these Supreme Court rulings, related to a number of issues. Do you think that the Department of Justice, there’s a lot of criticism coming from Democrats that the Department of Justice and Attorney General Merrick Garland seem to not really be taking an aggressive approach on a whole number of issues. What are your thoughts on that criticism of DOJ and what’s your sort of message to the general public really about how to look at this issue?
Dan Goldman: My message is pretty simple, which is be patient, which is very hard to do, especially as we’re watching these incredibly compelling and powerful hearings from the January 6 committee in Congress. And it looks so bad and it looks so obvious that there were many crimes committed and how come Merrick Garland has taken so long. What I have stressed and what I would stress from my 10 years of prosecuting, not obviously cases like this but sophisticated and complex cases that, always standing up to the mafia bosses, to the powerful to the corporate fraudsters.
I spent my career standing up to the powerful, including Donald Trump when I was down in D.C. But what is so important to understand is in order to make any case, and especially a case like this, that is a sprawling, massive, widespread conspiracy, it takes an incredible amount of work. You need to interview all of these witnesses because even if they might not have information that is especially helpful to you, you need to know that and you won’t know that until you interview them. You need to know what they know and what they don’t know and what the defenses would be so you can anticipate a defense because you have to understand the whole picture in order to actually indict someone and charge them and potentially take away their freedom. It’s an incredibly important and awesome responsibility to indict someone, to charge them with committing a crime, where the ultimate punishment could be that they go to jail. That is not a laughing matter and that is not something that anybody should take lightly. So I would say, as I watched these hearings, the evidence is really powerful. But it is something that the Department of Justice is going to have to methodically work through, and that’s not going to happen before the November elections. I think the best case scenario is the decision is probably made in spring of 2023.
Ben Max: And when you say the decision, you mean whether to charge Donald Trump?
Dan Goldman: Well, look, I think there are other people who are in the crosshairs. There’s no question Rudy Giuliani and Mark Meadows and John Eastman should be in the crosshairs of the Department of Justice. But again, any of these witnesses that we’ve seen and even some of them that we haven’t seen, but the people who were involved in this what appears to be a pretty widespread conspiracy, they could cooperate with the Department of Justice at any time. Well, that would be a great break for the prosecution. It would help them to really understand the inner circle and what was going on, but that will also take a lot of time to vet and to understand. So if John Eastman decides that he is actually going to cooperate, well you’re going to spend days and days with John Eastman been going through every detail, and then that will lead to additional witnesses, and you’ll need to talk to those witnesses.
And that’s why when everybody talks about prosecutions, and this really is similar to organized crime prosecutions that I did when I was in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, you really do need to sort of work your way, maybe not from the bottom, but certainly from the middle on up to the top because Donald Trump doesn’t email, he doesn’t text. You need witness testimony most likely in order to be able to convict him. Obviously, there is some good witness testimony that we’ve seen. There’s some recordings with Raffensperger, that’s very powerful evidence, but you need to fill in all the gaps.
Ben Max: Alright, we could talk January 6 and the committee and DOJ and other things for hours, but I want to move on to a few other things. Some of your commentary about new approaches, creativity, a number of challenging issues that are of course facing the country and facing Democrats who are in control right now of the White House and both houses of Congress, obviously, very narrowly in both houses, really. Some of what you’re saying seems to be an indictment of leadership on the federal level. Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Schumer, President Biden. Is this generation of leadership, are you among those who think they are really sort of missing their opportunity here to be more creative and aggressive and that this generation of Democratic leadership really needs to figure out a way to either allow some new ideas and approaches in or sort of step out of the way?
Dan Goldman: No, I don’t think this is a leadership issue. I think the leadership is trying to corral a very diverse caucus, especially in the House. And I think that there’s a lot of pressure from a lot of different sides. I worked closely with Nancy Pelosi when I did the impeachment. She is one of the very few most impressive people that I have ever worked with. She is brilliant, and she just is managing so much. I actually think it’s more a problem with a broader swath of Democrats and the approach that they take, which is I think a very sort of ideological approach that is not based in pragmatism or realism in some cases.
And I think what you’ll find as you look at the race, Ben, is that a lot of the policy views that the candidates have, including me, are not so different, but what is very different is the approach. And I read that one of my opponents made a comment about Build Back Better that the House passed it, now it’s up to the Senate and the White House to do it. And that is not the way that I would approach things. In order for something to actually get passed and into law, you need the House, you need the Senate, and you need the president, and everybody should be operating from that perspective. If you truly do want to move the ball forward and get something done, even if it’s not everything that you believe, but it is better than what exists, then the House and the Senate need to be coordinating. And I think there’s a breakdown of coordination, a breakdown of trust. I’ve seen some sort of nasty insults fired away from House members to Democratic members of the Senate. The infighting is counterproductive, and one of the things that I would want to do when I go down there, is I would want to be a voice of reason and a voice of pragmatism, and I would want to get my House colleagues together with our Senate colleagues to try to figure out something that can work given the current dynamics, whatever they are.
I think that one of the problems we run into in politics these days is we were just talking about with DOJ. Everybody expects everything to happen tomorrow. Well, what we have learned in watching the Republicans slowly take over the judiciary branch and the Supreme Court, that was a decades-long operation strategy where they just incrementally floated some of these far right extremist legal theories. And they floated up through the lower courts, and then they were rejected, but then they had more people buying into them, and then more and more, and now you have this incredibly extremist radical Supreme Court that is rolling back fundamental rights for the first time in our history. That did not happen overnight, and I think what we Democrats need to understand is there needs to be a longer-term strategy. Not just go as hard as we can right now, insist that everything gets done right now, and if not, we’re going to throw up our hands. So one of the things I want to bring down is not only creative thinking, but more strategic thinking, more tactical thinking, more game theory. Let’s game out how this is going to go, what is the first step we need, the second step we need, the third step. We’re going to go from A to Z, but we can’t skip all the letters in between and I think that’s what’s missing. And so I think leadership has a very difficult time managing so many different approaches, which are often not consistent with each other.
Ben Max: So obviously, you’re running somewhat on the resume that I mentioned and you have a different background than a number of the other candidates who have been in local elected office or are currently in local elected office. The flip side of some of that is the sort of connections in the communities and the neighborhoods of this district. Do you have those? Have you been active in any of the communities of this district? I know you live in Lower Manhattan and you’re a parent, but what are your sort of ties on the ground? Or is it that you’ve been doing this, this other important work, and that’s just not a way you’ve been able to spend your time? What’s the sort of pitch on the local level here to voters in this district in terms of your connections to the communities of the district?
Dan Goldman: I’ve lived in this district now for more than 15 years. I’m raising my five children in the district, some of whom go to school in the Lower Manhattan portion of the district, and some have or currently do go to the school in the Brooklyn part of this district. So I actually have great familiarity with both sides of the river as part of this district. I also worked at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the district for 10 years, and part of my requirements there is that I could not engage in political activity outside of the office. So I am relatively new to sort of the political world, but I’m not new to these issues. Before I was in the US Attorney’s Office, I worked very closely in law school with Michelle Alexander and I contributed to her book, “The New Jim Crow,” which is a seminal work on inequities in the criminal justice system. I have been a lifelong champion of social justice, of civil rights.
I’ve invested a lot of my time and energy in anti-poverty organizations in the city, as well as early childhood education and early childhood development, which are areas that along with criminal justice reform, I bring a real expertise about and that I will push very hard when I get to Congress. So I think what is important for those in the district to understand is I served as a lawyer, I am a lawyer, but my only client as a lawyer has been the United States of America, and I’ve tried to do my very best to represent the United States and in every aspect that I’ve done. And I am an incredibly hard worker, and I think I’ve had success in representing the United States as a lawyer. Now, I want to represent the constituents of this district as a United States congressperson. And in many of the same ways, I would expect to understand and learn all of the community issues, many of which I have already been speaking extensively about and have very good relationships with a number of the community members, and I will represent them very well. And I recently got an endorsement from Park Slope Assemblyman Robert Carroll, whose district is in a significant portion of this district, and I think what Bobby said about why he ultimately endorsed me over two of his colleagues in the state Assembly is that we’re just in a different time period right now where the threats to the country that we’ve known, the existence of this country as we’ve known it, are greater than ever before. And what we need right now is somebody with the skills and experience to take on those fights, to preserve, defend our democracy, and then someone else who can be really creative and thoughtful in moving forward on the local issues that matter so much to the constituents. And that’s something that I’ve done all my life, and I would be very excited to do as a member of Congress.
Ben Max: You’re listening to Max Politics here with Ben Max from Gotham Gazette. I’m joined by Dan Goldman, a Democratic candidate running in the primary that will occur in August for the new NY-10, the 10th congressional district of New York, including large portions of lower Manhattan and a big swath of Brooklyn, including a whole bunch of neighborhoods from downtown Brooklyn to Gowanus to Park Slope, Red Hook, Sunset Park, Borough Park, and more. Dan Goldman, just a few more minutes with you here, a couple more questions. In that similar vein, it seems like you’ve been looking for an opportunity to jump into politics in elected office. When New York Attorney General Letitia James was running for governor briefly, you among others jumped into the attorney general primary that wound up then everyone being vacating for Tish James, when she decided not to run for governor. Say a little something about sort of that turn of interest and how should people understand then turning your attention to a congressional race? A run for New York Attorney General obviously seems to suit your background, obviously, of course, being in the House also, you can use some of that experience and skills. But in terms of the shift to elected office in politics, what’s the sort of background there of your thinking and how that shift is going for you?
Dan Goldman: Well, as you pointed out, I’ve always worked in public service and a big part of the reason that I decided to sort of throw a complete monkey wrench in my family and commute down to Washington for almost a year and a half to work for Adam Schiff and the Intelligence Committee and ultimately lead the impeachment investigation is because I recognized what a threat to our country Donald Trump was, and I wanted to do everything that I could to be a check and a balance and push back against him. And unfortunately, even after he lost the election, he has not gone quietly into the good night.
And so part of the reason why I was interested in running for Attorney General is very consistent with why I’m interested in running for Congress right now, is that these threats from Donald Trump and the Republican Party that he controls, and let’s not mistake this — he still controls the Republican Party. Those threats are not gone, and what we’re seeing is a rollback of our rights, significant existential threats to our democracy, our elections. There is a a very concerted effort now, even recently in the Supreme Court, not only overturning Roe, but preventing states from passing laws to keep guns off the streets to keep the citizens safe, including in this particular instance, New York State and rolling back the the ability of the EPA to monitor climate change and to reduce climate change. Everything that we care about is going in the wrong direction, and I happen to have skills and experience that I think are very relevant to the issues facing New Yorkers and Americans today. And it is very consistent with my personal desire to have done public service, but this is what I think we all need to move forward, and this is a crisis that we’re facing. And so the reasons I jumped in the AG race are very consistent with the reasons I’m jumping in here is I want to get back on the front lines to fight for the people of New York, to fight for Democrats around the country, to fight for patriots and Americans who believe in democracy and believe in individual rights and freedoms. That’s what this country is all about. That’s what has given so many of us such incredible opportunities, and I feel compelled to fight for that until I cannot fight any longer.
Ben Max: Alright, in closing, we could talk about each of these for 10 minutes each, but give me a quick answer on each of these. One of your opponents in the race is former Mayor Bill de Blasio. What’s your sort of quick headlines on what you think of his record as mayor of New York City?
Dan Goldman: Well, the good thing about Bill de Blasio is that he has close to 100% name ID, and that means that everybody knows him and everybody has an opinion about. And so I welcome each voter to make their opinion about him known on election day.
Ben Max: Alright. Do you think that the Rikers Island jail complex should be brought under a federal receivership?
Dan Goldman: I think Rikers Island jail complex should be shut down. I do think there needs to be greater oversight of it from the federal government. But I think the biggest priority right now is to end Rikers, and we need to move forward on an alternative situation so that we can close Rikers down.
Ben Max: The New York City Public Housing Authority is in need of tens of billions of dollars in repairs, as I’m sure you know. There was a recent movement with a state bill to create a new preservation trust to raise some of that money, but there’s big gaps. Other than tens of billions of federal dollars just being sent to NYCHA to address those major capital needs, which again, is always potentially possible in something like Build Back Better. But other than that, is there a specific strategy you favor for raising more money for public housing repairs in New York City? There’s a variety of other strategies that are out there, controversial ones. Any specific strategy you think that NYCHA needs to move forward on in the absence of those billions of federal dollars?
Dan Goldman: I will push incredibly hard and will work incredibly hard to get federal dollars for NYCHA. I think that the community trust that was established by the state is a very good vehicle, and I think it actually could be a hook to try to get federal legislation. But the affordable housing problem in the city is not just with the disrepair of NYCHA buildings, which is just not something that we can allow for anymore. It is a function of a lack of housing and a lack of good housing more broadly. And I do have some serious ideas about how we can create more and better housing. One example is that I believe 5 World Trade Center should be 100%, affordable housing, and that it should be available first to the survivors of 9/11, as well as those who have lived in the community, post-9/11, and who endured so much of the the effects of the cleanup. But that is one way where I do believe that the community should receive some further benefits from all of the development that we’ve had downtown.
And I will work very hard to work with real estate developers to make sure that they are incentivized to continue development, while also requiring them to give back more, especially in the way of affordable housing, because I think the best way for us to create more and better housing is to allow the experts in that area to do it while insisting that government incentives yield greater results for the community, and where it’s been lacking in a lot of these rezonings and these development is that there is not enough required of the developers to make the rezoned areas, to improve them for the communities, whether that’s parks, schools, daycares, medical facilities, mass transit, and of course and most importantly, affordable housing.
Ben Max: Last two. I saw your campaign. You tweeted a photo going to vote in the primaries we just had last month in June. Were you a Kathy Hochul, Jumaane Williams, or Tom Suozzi voter in the governor’s race?
Dan Goldman: I proudly voted for Kathy Hochul. I think she was dealt a very difficult hand without any transition period, and she’s gotten on her feet very well. She is navigating some very tricky waters, but I’ve generally been very impressed with the job that she’s done.
Ben Max: And lastly, I’ve heard you talk about this in other interviews. We didn’t really get into this this time, but maybe in the future we will. Public safety, you’ve prosecuted gun trafficking cases you’ve noted. Just give us one thought on a strategy that you would pursue in Congress to help reduce the flow of guns that’s realistic, that’s something that if you are let’s say in a House Democratic majority, but you’re facing the current Senate dynamics or even a Republican Senate, something sort of realistic, but that is a specific strategy that you would look to take at the federal level related to guns in the United States and in New York.
Dan Goldman: Well, I think there are lots of different ways that we need to approach this. The first thing I would say is that I think we can have justice and fairness. I think we can improve the fairness of the criminal justice system. We can reduce the number of people going to jail by diverting first-time nonviolent offenders out of the system and into either educational or vocational training, and so that they don’t become these recidivists that I think so many of us are frustrated to see. And we also need to improve funding for mental health treatment to allow for experts to deal with domestic violence and homeless problems that the NYPD spends way too much time on. We ought to try to have the NYPD focus on what they are good at, which is fighting crime, and part of that is fighting gun crime.
So a couple of things that I would do. One is II would reinitiate a program that I was a part of when I was in the Southern District of New York, which was called the Trigger Lock Program, where basically, a lot of gun possession charges in the state should go to go federally, because the laws are a little bit easier to prosecute and some of the punishments are more severe. I draw a significant divide between violent crime and gun crime and non violent crime, and I think that what we have to do is be very, very strong on violent crime. We cannot allow for people to be afraid to walk down the street or go on the subways, and so we need to aggressively combat violent crime. So that’s one area. I would also include ghost guns and would update the gun trafficking laws to make them easier to prosecute. And I would also strengthen some of the penalties for failure to register a gun and failure to abide by the general gun laws. So we’ve got to stop this iron pipeline, and part of the way to do that, I think, is to increase penalties. And part of the way to do that is to be a little bit more thoughtful about how we investigate these crimes.
Ben Max: [Longer outro…] Dan Goldman, thanks very much for all the time and be well.
Dan Goldman: Thank you so much, Ben. It was really great to be with you. Thank you.