NEW YORK — Republican U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, who has been dogged by allegations of campaign violations since his first campaign for Congress in 2009 and 2010, is facing criminal charges from federal prosecutors, his lawyer said on Friday.
A House Ethics Committee announced in November that Grimm was under investigation for possible campaign finance violations but said it would defer its inquiry because of a separate Department of Justice investigation.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn said Friday he couldn’t confirm, deny or comment on the case. The FBI’s New York office, which handles investigations, also declined to comment.
Grimm’s attorney, William McGinley, said in a statement he wasn’t surprised by the impending charges, which he didn’t disclose. But he maintained the lawmaker had done nothing wrong.
“After more than two years of investigation plagued by malicious leaks, violations of grand jury secrecy, and strong-arm tactics, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has disclosed its intent to file criminal charges against Congressman Grimm,” he said in the statement. “When the dust settles, he will be vindicated.”
Grimm made headlines in January after confronting a New York City cable news station reporter who tried to question him about a long-running FBI investigation into campaign finance on a balcony in the Capitol.
After reporter Michael Scotto finished his report, Grimm stormed back, leaned into him and said, “Let me be clear to you. If you ever do that to me again, I’ll throw you off this (expletive) balcony.”
Scotto, who was asking about fundraising during Grimm’s first campaign, protested, saying he was asking “a valid question.”
During that race, Grimm has acknowledged receiving $250,000 to $300,000 in contributions from followers of an Israeli rabbi, Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto. Some members of Pinto’s congregation subsequently said they made tens of thousands of dollars in illegal contributions, including gifts passed through straw donors.
Grimm has denied knowledge of any improprieties, and the FBI hasn’t accused him of any wrongdoing. The Israeli businessman who had served as Grimm’s liaison to Pinto’s followers, Ofer Biton, pleaded guilty in August to an immigration fraud charge.
Three days after that guilty plea, the FBI filed a sealed criminal complaint accusing a Houston woman who had been romantically involved with Grimm of using straw donors to make illegal campaign contributions.
In that case, made public this month, the woman was accused of funneling at least $10,000 to Grimm’s campaign by passing them through friends who agreed to have the donations listed under their names.
A spokesman in Grimm’s Washington office, Nick Iacono, did not immediately return emails or a telephone message seeking comment Friday.
A House member who has been indicted does not lose any rights or privileges under federal law or the chamber’s rules, according to a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.
Rules used by the two major political parties require indicted committee or subcommittee chairmen, or members of a party’s leadership, to temporarily step aside. Grimm is not a chairman or a member of the leadership.
Associated Press writers Tom Hays and Michael Sisak contributed to this report from New York, and Alan Fram contributed from Washington, D.C.
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