Impeachment Prosecutor Dan Goldman Looks to Make Jump to Congress in NY-10
By Reuvain Borchardt
Dan Goldman is the one viable candidate in the NY-10 Congressional race who has never held elected office.
Goldman, 46, made his fame as the lead counsel for House Democrats prosecuting the first impeachment trial of then-President Donald Trump, over allegations that Trump abused his office for his personal interest regarding Ukraine. He previously served 10 years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York.
Goldman, a resident of Lower Manhattan, attended Yale University and Stanford Law School, and is an heir to the Levi Strauss fortune, with the capacity to spend large amounts of his own money on his candidacy. As of the June 30 financial filing, Goldman, who says he has not yet spent any of his own money, is second in fundraising among the more than a dozen Democratic candidates in the race, with over a million dollars in the bank.
A poll last week showed Goldman in third place in the Democratic primary race.
He has been endorsed by Brooklyn Assemblyman Robert Carroll, gun violence activist Jackie Rowe-Adams, the Village Independent Democrats, and The Steady State, an organization of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents who are national-security and foreign-policy officials and that was created to oppose Donald Trump’s reelection in 2020.
Goldman visited the Hamodia office on Monday for an interview about his candidacy.
Interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
When the Democratic residents of NY-10 go to the voting booth on August 23, they’ll see more than a dozen names on the ballot. Why should they choose Dan Goldman, someone who’s never held elected office before?
Because I’m the only one who has been effective in Congress, and I am the right person, right now to take on the serious problems that we have both around the country and in the city. I am focused on making sure that our democracy remains intact, that our fundamental rights and individual liberties are preserved, and on using the same creative thinking and different approaches that I used when I worked there to be effective.
I’m also the only candidate in this race with law-enforcement experience. Given the public-safety crisis that we’re in, in the city, I’m best-qualified to help solve the crime epidemic and bring our city back.
And having served for a year-and-a half [as impeachment counsel] on the House Intelligence Committee, there’s an entire significant aspect of this job, which is dealing with foreign affairs, foreign policy, wars, intelligence issues that I’ve dealt with, I’ve been exposed to, and my opponents have not.
How can a Member of Congress affect crime?
First of all, someone with experience and expertise in law enforcement, but also who has spent a lot of time focusing on criminal-justice reform, like myself, comes with credibility on these issues, and relationships with a lot of the top law-enforcement professionals in the city, including all of the different federal and state and local agencies.
So one thing that I would push very hard for is to increase the use of task forces that I used a lot, especially prosecuting organized crime, which allows for federal agents from all the different agencies, and city and state agents, to work together and use their particular expertise and their specific tools together to have a greater impact on the safety of the city.
The second thing that I would want to do is push the federal prosecutors in the city and push the Justice Department to focus more attention on the gun epidemic that we have in the city, and to try to solve the gun crimes that we have, often by taking gun arrests to the federal prosecutor not to the county prosecutor.
And lastly, I think we need to increase penalties for hate crimes and increase prosecutions at the federal level for civil-rights violations. Because we are dealing with a dramatic increase in racial, religious and ethnic discrimination and hate crimes.
Do you own a gun?
You mentioned you’ve been involved in criminal-justice reform. How?
When I was in law school, I worked very closely with Michelle Alexander, who wrote the book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” I was a contributor to that book, which exposed the inequalities in the criminal-justice system. I also wrote a law-review article on how felon-disenfranchisement laws are the modern-day literacy test. So I have spent a lot of time and focus on criminal-justice issues across the board. I bring a perspective of someone who understands the individual effects of the criminal-justice system. I’m someone who understands the societal effects, the effects on the communities, and who understands the good parts and the bad parts of our criminal-justice system.
Do you stand by your endorsement of Alvin Bragg?
[Ed.: Goldman endorsed Bragg in his 2021 election for Manhattan district attorney. Bragg has faced a tumultuous first few months in office and has come under fire for what critics allege are soft-on-crime policies].
I do stand by my endorsement of Alvin Bragg.
I would have approached the job very differently if I were in his position. But I think that Alvin is learning on the fly how the job is more than just focusing on your own cases or campaigning. And I think he would acknowledge that he started off on the wrong foot. But he’s got three-and-a-half more years to right the ship. And I hope he does.
It seems that on the one hand you’re saying you stand by the endorsement, but then you’re saying that he’s made mistakes as a DA. He’s made mistakes, but you still stand by your endorsement of him?
I don’t think anyone who endorses anyone expects that person not to make mistakes. And I don’t think an endorsement means that I would do everything the way he does, or that I’m somehow responsible for the decisions that he makes. I endorsed Alvin because I thought he had the personal and professional experience that was best-suited for the job. That doesn’t mean that I endorse every decision that he makes, nor do I take responsibility for the decisions that he makes because I endorsed him.
Can you go into specifics of what you think he’s done wrong, and what you think, if anything, he’s done right?
Honestly, I think I’ve said enough about Alvin.
I will say one other thing. I think that the Day One memo and how he went about that was ill-advised. I would have handled that very differently.
[Ed.: In that memo, Bragg instructed prosecutors in his office not to seek prison sentences for certain crimes. After fierce public backlash, Bragg relaxed the policies outlined in the memo.]
So knowing what you know now, if you had to do it all over again, you’d still endorse him over Tali Weinstein?
Where do you fit into the spectrum of the Democratic Party? How do you define yourself?
I don’t define myself with any label. I have progressive ideals, but a practical, pragmatic, business-friendly and pro-Israel approach to the job.
The business friendly and the pro-Israel are often considered not to be progressive. So what are the progressive ideals you have?
When I talk about “business friendly,” I mean that we need to encourage business development in the city, because we need to expand the pie, so that everybody can get more of the pie, and that as the city flourishes and prospers, rising tides lift all boats. So I actually think being business-friendly is entirely consistent with progressive ideals, because I think that the more that New York City is the center of the business world, the creative world, the intellectual world, the cultural world, that we are creating the greatest city in the world where people want to do business and people want to live, and that creates jobs, it expands the tax base, which allows for more money to go for programs that service the less-advantaged to get them out of poverty.
That’s the more moderate side. What about the progressive ideals?
I wouldn’t characterize it as the more moderate side. That’s how you’re characterizing it. That’s not how I would characterize it.
Well let’s say it doesn’t exactly line up philosophically with the Democratic Socialists of America.
That’s right. And I think that the DSA, in their views of demonizing the business community, is shooting the people they’re trying to help in the foot.
But I believe that health care is a human right, and that everybody should have health care. I believe we need to put a lot more money and resources into affordable housing, mental-health treatment for homeless people, job training, vocational education, focus a lot more on transitioning to renewable energy to affect the climate.
Suppose that as a Member of Congress, a bill came up that would expand drilling, and you believed it would lower gas prices but also increase global warming? Would you support a policy like that?
Is there an alternative policy that would be available? I think it’s overly simplistic to frame the question that way. I think what the federal government should do — and by the way, that law was presented by the Democrats and was voted down by the Republicans, at least to address inflation earlier this spring.
The House offered a bill that was designed to curb inflation and the Republicans voted against it.
Didn’t that bill spend more money?
Yes, but that doesn’t mean that it necessarily correlates to inflation. You can spend more money federally in order to dramatically reduce the supply-side issues that we have, which will increase supply for goods, therefore meeting the demand, therefore lowering prices.
So you don’t buy the argument that federal spending has been a cause of the inflation?
I think that the Fed was slow to address the rising inflation. The rising inflation primarily results from the fact that the economy was overheating and was recovering under Joe Biden much faster than anyone thought. And then when you combine it with the supply-side issues that continue to this day, but originated with COVID, then you’ve got a combination of an overheating economy, lack of supply, and dramatically increased demand. And basic macroeconomics then tells you that inflation increases.
Do you believe the spending by the federal government in any way causes the inflation now?
I haven’t seen any proof that it does.
Your main claim to fame is prosecuting Trump in his first impeachment trial. We’re right now in Boro Park; this is Trump country. I don’t know if he got support anywhere in the nation as much as he did in Boro Park. Why should the Boro Park voters cast their ballot for you?
First of all, you’re not going to find a single candidate in this race that didn’t support the impeachment of Donald Trump.
Second of all, as the lawyer in the case, my job was to represent the committee I worked on, and to do the investigation as best as I can. I think what’s noteworthy about it is that I was effective in what I did. Now I’m looking at a different job, which is to represent the constituents of this district. And what people should be focusing on is who will actually be an effective and creative representative who will get results for the community.
And I certainly understand the Boro Park community better than any of my opponents. My wife is Modern Orthodox and went to yeshiva. I have a kosher home, I understand the importance of yeshivas. I have a deep connection to Israel, both myself and through my wife and her family who have spent a lot of time there, including studying there. I understand the specific issues that the Boro Park community cares about, whether it’s public safety, or yeshivas, or Israel. I know for example, that when a Jewish person dies, they need to be buried within 24 hours, and that can cause a lot of complications when people are coming from Israel. So I will be incredibly responsive to the urgent needs for visas or whatever may arise.
To the extent you can affect Israel as a Member of Congress, what would your policy be regarding Israel?
I am strongly pro-Israel. I believe in the two-state solution, but I believe that the Palestinians need to demonstrate that they are a good-faith and willing partner in a peace process, which has not happened recently. I oppose the expansion of settlements in the West Bank, because I think that is a step in the wrong direction for peace. We need to forcefully address the Iranian nuclear program, and I hope we can reach a future deal that has much more stringent inspection requirements and that does not trust the Iranians in any way, because they’ve demonstrated that they are also not good-faith actors.
Should funding for Israel ever be conditioned on anything?
No, there should be no preconditions to any of the funding outlined in the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding].
Israel, I believe, should be a democracy and a Jewish state. As with any democracy, including this democracy here, people have the right to object to various aspects of what they do. But our support is not conditioned on whether or not Israel does everything that we want them to do. As long as they are maintaining a robust democracy, they follow the rule of law, then we should be supporting them without any conditions.
What do you think of the BDS movement?
The BDS movement is an antisemitic movement that I oppose vigorously. And while I respect people’s First Amendment rights, I do not think that a single dollar of government funding should go towards any group, entity or corporation that supports the BDS movement.
Should there be any limitation whatsoever on the right to terminate a pregnancy at any point in the pregnancy?
I do think, generally speaking, I agree with the break-point of viability, subject to exceptions.
By “exceptions,” you mean like the health of the mother?
The health of the mother is always an exception.
So say there is a perfectly healthy fetus, and the mother just decides after viability that she wants to terminate the pregnancy. You would be okay with a state law that bars the termination of pregnancy at that point – assuming it’s a perfectly healthy baby [and there’s no risk to the mother and it’s not a case with specific horrific circumstances].
I would not object to that.
So if the Democrats in Congress would look to pass a bill that would legalize terminating pregnancies at any point for any reason, you would oppose such a bill?
[Ed.: Before responding to this question, Goldman held a whispered conversation with an aide present at the interview, and from that point forward Goldman’s responses switched from a post-viability limitation to no limitations at all.]
I think that my personal views on the termination of pregnancy are secondary to the right of a woman to make the decision about a pregnancy herself.
So you believe that there should be no law limiting the termination of pregnancy at any point in the pregnancy?
I believe that a woman’s right to choose is a woman’s individual decision. And that, frankly, a reason why I believe so strongly in the right to choose is because I don’t think anyone’s beliefs, religious or otherwise, should overrule a woman’s decision about her own health care.
Religious freedoms can sometimes come into conflict with certain social progressive views. For example, there are anti-discrimination laws. Say someone wants to make a wedding that conflicts with religious beliefs and wants to force a wedding hall to host it, or a baker to bake a cake for it. Should a religious owner of such a business have to provide the service for such a wedding, even if it conflicts with that person’s own morals?
I think there’s a free-speech right that crosses over the line, when the only reason why someone wouldn’t do what they’d otherwise do is because of a discriminatory reason. And I don’t believe that that discriminatory reason is a legitimate reason to withhold services.
Have you spent any of your money in the race?
As of the June 30 filing deadline, we did not spend [my] money, but I am certainly willing and intend to spend my money.
How much are you willing to spend?
I don’t know.
I think we’re out of time. Do you want to make any final comment or anything?
It’s odd that you asked me that question about religious freedom but you didn’t ask me about yeshivas. But I think it’s important to note that just like I think we should have the separation of church and state in a woman’s right to decide her own health care, I also believe we should have separation of church and state as it relates to yeshiva education. And so I support yeshiva education, as it is designed by the community.
You’re referring to the New York substantial-equivalency battle, I presume?
The reason I didn’t ask about it is that I have a certain amount of time for the interview, and I try to stick to things that federal legislators can affect. I don’t know how they would affect the yeshiva regulations in New York.
But you’re also assuming that everyone understands that difference. So you also have to talk to your readers, who have no idea —
— I’ve actually covered the substantial equivalency regulation extensively. It is a New York thing.
Of course, I get that. But I will be a supporter of yeshiva education, which I would assume these constituents would care about.
Is there anything that a federal legislator can do to help yeshivas, whether it’s financially or with education curricula?
Let me just add one thing that I would caution you about. You view the job, as I’m listening to you, of a Congressperson as solely whether or not bills get passed. And I think that you underestimate the potential influence that a Congressperson can have on city policy, state policy, the communities. And a Congressperson who’s an advocate for a particular policy, even if it’s a state or city policy, can make a difference. So I would just caution you not to focus exclusively on when you say whether a Congressperson can make a difference, whether their bill is passed or not.
[Ed.: Our interview concluded here. But after leaving the Hamodia office, Goldman telephoned and asked to clarify a point regarding the substantial-equivalency discussion over yeshivas]
I just wanted to clarify, obviously, I support the state laws about substantial equivalence to public schools. I was mostly just stressing that because of my wife’s experience, and her family’s experience going to yeshivas, I’m a strong supporter of yeshiva education. But it occurred to me afterwards that I’m not sure that was clear to you.
So you’re saying you’re a strong supporter of yeshiva education, but that you also support the state’s right to regulate the curricula of the yeshivas?
Yes, I support the state law that regulates all certified schools.
And do you support the proposed regulations that are right now being considered by the New York State Board of Regents?
I need to look into them further. Because I don’t want to misspeak and say that I support something when there’s a detail that I don’t. So we will look into that.
But broadly speaking —
— I support the state law of substantially equivalent education.
So then what were you referring to when you said you support yeshivas?
I am a very strong supporter of yeshivas, and would like to make sure that they continue to receive the necessary government support. And I recognize the value of yeshiva education because my wife had a yeshiva education.
You previously told me, “just like I think we should have the separation of church and state in a woman’s right to decide her own health care, I also believe we should have separation of church and state as it relates to yeshiva education. And so I support yeshiva education, as it is designed by the community.” How do you reconcile saying that you support “yeshiva education as it is designed by the community” while also saying that the state should have a right to regulate the curricula?
Because the yeshivas, within the broad parameters of the state requirements, should be able to fashion their own religious education and their own education values, as long as they meet the minimum requirements for the substantial equivalence. So what I’m saying is that the state should not be telling them how they how they educate their students in terms of Judaica or Hebrew or Jewish education, and that the only role for the state is just making sure that all schools that are accredited by the state abide by state law.
Well yeshivas until now did not have to be accredited; that’s one of the proposed regulations.
Anyway, so you’re saying that the yeshivas should have the right to create their own religious curriculum, but the state has a right to regulate the secular studies curriculum?
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