By Alan S. Chartock | December 18, 2020

I have asked Andrew Cuomo on several occasions whether he had any interest in being Attorney General of the United States. Consistently and predictably, he answered that he loved being governor and he wanted to remain as governor. That, of course, is the politically correct answer to the inevitable question that people like Andrew are asked. As I always say, you don’t say, “I’ll go to the prom if I’m asked.” You wait until you ARE asked.

Andrew has a great deal going for him and if his friend, Joe Biden, asks him to serve, it will be because Andrew has a number of qualities that one might want in an AG. He is very smart. He was the Attorney General in New York and he made the most of it. He showed himself to be relatively fearless and, among other things, he sent politicians to jail. So, he could be counted on to be what I have always called “Andrew Tough Guy.”

Biden has made it clear that he wants an Attorney General who will be independent. Well, there’s independent and then there’s independent. You sure don’t want someone in that incredibly powerful job who will embarrass you and show you up one way another. On the other hand, you do need someone who will anticipate your positions without being told what to do. Not only that, with the specter of madman Trump circling around you as president, you might want someone who gets the game and plays good defense.

For his part, Biden has made it clear that he doesn’t want to use his administration to go after Trump. He has also said that he wants his AG to act independently. The last thing that President Biden will want to do is to pick up a phone and tell his AG, “Now, that guy has gone too far.” “Tough Guy Andrew” has shown that he can and will go head to head with Trump.

There are some problems, of course. Andrew will have to get through confirmation and there are a few things in his history that might prove problematic. If the Republicans control the Senate, they will harp on his relationship with a couple of ill-advised characters who were formerly top aides to Cuomo and who were, well, corrupt. Then they will look into Andrew’s early law practice and the folks he worked for. He and his partner at the time, Lucille Falcone, made a lot of money while Papa Mario was the governor. You had better believe that this kind of negative research has been ongoing during the Andrew Cuomo years. While it may not have been usable at that level, it most certainly would be used in the big league confirmation process.

I suspect that the outcome in the two Georgia Senatorial races may be key to this nomination. If the Democrats control the chair of the relevant committees, Biden might want to go for it.

There is a lot to consider here. Running for a fourth term will be tough for Cuomo, so a move to the AG’s spot would be a move slightly upward.  But when you’re governor, you report to no one. Right now, Andrew doesn’t have a boss. If you work for a president, he IS your boss. He is surrounded by a jealous praetorian guard who are always competing for power. There is always that danger but if you know Andrew the way I think I do, you would not want to bet on those who might get in his way. Plus, Biden is known to be a close friend.

So, there are a lot of variables here. Andrew is a white male at a time when Biden is under intense pressure to give these top jobs to women and people of color. On the other hand, easy going Joe Biden will need someone like “Tough Guy Andrew” watching his back.


Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected].