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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Appears RTVi

March 4, 2017

Host: The first question is about the police raids that are going on here in the city and all over United States. The viewers of RTVi, actually, on Brighton Beach including, they are in panic, thinking that someone is coming for them. There are lots of rumors and lots of fear, huge fear. The question is you have said that New York City is a sanctuary city, but what exactly are you doing to protect this people?

Mayor de Blasio: Well, you, I think, used the phrase, police raids. I want to clarify it's not the police. That's very, very important. That's one of the most important things we're doing.

Host: ICE.

Mayor: Our Police Commissioner, Jim O'Neill, said very squarely the other day, the NYPD will not participate as immigration enforcement agents because we have, for decades, built a close working relationship with immigrant communities, folks who are documented and folks who are undocumented. As you know, immigrant families often include people with different classifications.

Our police force is not going to be out there knocking on people's doors. Our police force is not going to share information about people's documentation status with the federal authorities. That's been true -

Host: Even if the Feds ask you to cooperate, ask NYPD to cooperate?

Mayor: We've been very clear that we do not ask people documentation status nor have we for decades. That's been true of Democrats, Republicans as mayors. Even Rudy Giuliani agreed that this was the smart policy in terms of public safety here in New York City. So the NYPD will not be asking people about their documentation status.

In terms of the City of New York, we said the only area where we cooperate is we have a law that delineates 170 serious and violent crimes. If someone is convicted - not just accused, convicted of those crimes - then we will work with ICE in terms of their deportation. 

Host: As you did before?

Mayor: As we did before - before the election. Absolutely. The vast majority of people who are here - there's about half a million undocumented people here - the vast majority don't commit any crimes whatsoever. They go about their lives peacefully. There's a small number who commit quality of life crimes. Littering or small offenses, non-violent, non-serious crime. Very, very few people who are undocumented immigrants commit really serious and violent crimes in this 170 category. That's the one instance where we do cooperate.

Host: How far will you go in your fight with the federal government because since you've declared New York City a sanctuary city, you are risking to lose the federal funding. How far will you go in this fight?

Mayor: We do not believe the President's executive order related to immigration is legally clear or consistent. We think it can be challenged effectively in court. If you look at it carefully, the only resources that could be held back, even if it were to pass judicial muster, the only resources that could held back would be from the NYPD, especially for anti-terrorism. I think that puts the President's administration in a box of their own making. They claim they want to force us to change our ways, and their penalty is going to take away anti-terrorism funding that protects the biggest city in America and the number one terror target, I think that will end up being untenable and unacceptable. But in the first instance, nothing has been done to remove our funding so far, and if there ever were an attempt, we would immediately go to court to stop it.

Host: Another thing - another problem that the people face here in the United States after the new President has come to the office is anti-Semitism, which is a huge, huge problem here. We know about this reports every day here. We’ve got the dozens of reports that the Jewish organizations were evacuated and cemeteries were vandalized and so on and so forth. Do you think it is connected to the rhetoric of the new President?

Mayor: Absolutely, especially during the campaign. He has moderated some of his rhetoric in the last month or two, but if you look at the year and a half of the campaign, where the then-candidate Trump often engaged in very hateful, divisive language directed at many different communities, and unfortunately, I think that spurred the white supremacist movement to come out of the shadows and a lot of anti-Semitism and racism to come out of the shadows. We've seen so many instance around the country where people felt emboldened to act in a way that was racist or anti-Semitic or Islamophobic or anti-gay and somehow feel they could get away that.

Our message in New York City is you can't get away with it. We don't accept it. It goes against our values. It goes against our laws. The NYPD has a very aggressive bias crime unit, and if anyone commits an act of violence or in any other way breaks the law with an intent of bias, we will make sure there are very strict consequences.

Host: Now, President Trump is saying that he's the less anti-Semitic person in the world.

Mayor: He's unleashed these forces, and some of the people who are closest to these white supremacist movements - and they are very intolerant of any religion that's not Christian. Steve Bannon is an example of a leader of the right-wing that has fostered and supported these kind of movements and certainly given them access to his media platform. If the President wants to draw a clear line, he needs to make explicitly clear that he will not tolerate anti-Semitism, racism, Islamophobia, anti-gay activities. I think it's necessary to separate from the people who, unfortunately, like Steve Bannon, have aided and abetted those kind of negative movements and to constantly make clear that he doesn't want the support of any people like that and he will condemn them. That hasn't really happened sufficiently to date. It's certainly, in the campaign, you remember famously when he was asked if he would accept the support of the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke, and he hesitated to answer.

Host: Yeah, he didn’t.

Mayor: Right. There's never been the kind of forceful consistent statement that he will not associate with anyone who makes anti-Semitic statements or again, statements against any other part of humanity. He's never separated. He has to make a clean, full separation if he wants to help heal this wound.

Host: The experts in this world where they are very concerned about the impact that the organizations like BDS have in the United States on the universities and on campuses in the United States. So do you think this is also connected to the situation?

Mayor: You're talking about two different concepts, in my opinion. The anti-Semitic attacks - the desecration of cemeteries, the swastikas that have been drawn, the hate speech. This, we're seeing here in the Unites States, and we're seeing variations of it in Europe, too, which very much connects to xenophobic parties, nationalist parties - many of which have origins in Nazi and fascist movements from the '30s and '40s. The National Front in France was formed by people collaborating with the Nazis, literally. The Freedom Party in Austria. It was formed by former Nazi officers. The core of the problem in Europe, I think, is much bigger than BDS. It is the anti-Semitism that never went away and now is finding new voice. Well, here, sadly, because of the Trump campaign and some of the other Republican campaigns, a similar reality, the white supremacist, the xenophobic right-wing is coming out of the shadows and making their voices heard.

BDS is a different kind of problem, in my opinion. BDS, in my view as a progressive, the folks who support BDS misunderstand the meaning of Israel. They may disagree with the current Israeli government. That's their right. That's a different matter. They should see that as a separate matter, but go at the state of Israel, which is fundamentally necessary as a safe haven for the Jewish people, especially as we see - once again - anti-Semitism on the rise. So I've spoken out against BDS as a progressive and said progressives need to be in favor of protecting minorities who are under attack and protecting a multi-cultural and multi-faced society. BDS, by attacking the economy of Israel, undermines the hope of Israel's long-term survival, undermines the economic potential for peace because there's going to be a core economic piece of any peace plan to try to lift up Israelis and Palestinians alike and heal the wounds through economic opportunity. BDS stands in the way of that. So I think BDS is a absolutely mistaken movement, and one I'm going to keep speaking out against, but I think it's different than these very, very dangerous xenophobic threats we're seeing from extremists, both in the Unites States and in Europe.

Host: During last campaign, you've - last elections - you've been campaigning for Hillary Clinton, and then she lost. Few days after the election, she said that this is FBI Director Comey who is to be blamed for her loss of the election. Do you agree with that? Also, what do you think about all these talks about Russian interference into the elections?

Mayor: I'm very concerned about what I think is now well-established of a pattern of Russian interference. When we say it, this is not about the Russian people. This is about the current Russian government and President Putin. I think we have enough evidence to warrant a full investigation by the Congress and a special prosecutor, etc. You see more and more bipartisan voices, both Democrat and Republicans, saying we need that. I think the American people have a core question of whether our democratic process was undermined, and we need a full investigation to get to the truth.

So that piece of the equation, I think, is a given. I think there are many reasons for what happened in the election, but the potential interference of a foreign country systematically is something we've never experienced before in our history. And we must get to the truth.

Host: Actually, President Putin is one of the most frequently quote and cited person in the American media. He is everywhere, of course. What do you think about Vladimir Putin because, you know, Donald Trump, he talks about him all the time. He's nice. He says I'm genius, and so on and so forth. Do you have an opinion about the Russian President?

Mayor: I'm troubled by what I've seen. I think he's an extraordinarily intelligent and capable man, but I think he has used his abilities in some ways that are very troubling. I don't think there's enough, from everything I know, enough freedom in Russia. I don't think there's enough freedom of public discourse. I think, obviously, the opposition has been held down using very harsh methods. I, as an American, think we have to be very, very concerned about an unprecedented attempt to undermine our electoral process, if proven, but we have enough evidence so far to say there needs to be a full investigation. We do know for a fact there's been interference in the Ukraine in a way that is not consistent with the post-war order of respecting borders. So from my point of view, I can acknowledge that Putin is a very intelligent and clever man, but at same time, I'm very uncomfortable with the ways he's handled his leadership.

Host: You don't agree with Donald Trump's new policy towards Russia? New reset and so on and so and so forth?

Mayor: I think if I thought Donald Trump was looking at it objectively and simply trying to start a new dialogue I might be more positive. I think we always have to have an opportunity for new dialogue with any nation. I believe the Iran treaty, for example, was a good idea after decades of tension to attempt a new relationship. Unfortunately, that's not what I'm seeing here. I'm seeing Trump deferring to Putin and being unwilling to look into what happened in the election in a way that leads a lot of us to wonder if he is beholden to Putin in some way or unwilling to confront what's wrong with Putin. I think Trump has simplistically put forward the notion of, "Oh, we need a better relationship. Let's show respect." I think that glosses over the very real issues that need to be examined.

Host: Here, in New York City, you are having your election in November. There is a lot of rumors now that Hillary Clinton is going to participate in these elections. What do you think about it? Will you campaign for her? Will you compete with here?

Mayor: As I said when this first started, a few days later one of her most senior aides, Neera Tanden, who'd been one of the most important people in her team for many years, went on CNN and said the truth is that Hillary Clinton is not going to run for anything again in her life. That's a senior authoritative voice, and that makes sense. We've seen other coverage that points out she has an important decision to make about her future but has not been looking at electoral options, so from my point of view, we have an election very soon in this city, a primary election in September. There are a few Democrats who have declared. Others might. I'm focused on the people who are right now talking about running specifically.

Host: You've had on Friday a very long interview with the FBI guys. Four hours of the interview. They were asking you about the fundraising issues in 2013 during your campaign. What is your comment on that because I have never [inaudible]?

Mayor: I'm only going to say broadly what I've said before. We have handled everything appropriately, always within the law - very high ethical standards and cooperated in every way asked in terms of this investigation. I willingly went and provided that interview because I was happy to provide the information. That's really all I'm going to say about it.

Host: You're going to run for the next term, right?

Mayor: Oh, I've declared already for re-election, and I'm going to work very hard to win the votes of New Yorkers. I'll be in neighborhoods all over the city.

Host: Good luck to you, then. Thank you.

Mayor: Thank you very much.

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