The end for Michael Grimm? – Politico
New York Rep. Michael Grimm has always been a survivor, so if he steps into a federal court in Brooklyn Tuesday and pleads guilty to a felony charge that he evaded taxes – as he is expected to do – it will likely be the beginning of the end for his brief, but spectacularly colorful, political career.
There is no word yet on whether the New York Republican’s plea deal will involve prison time, although with his record of public service, any period of incarceration would likely be short. Grimm faced as much as 20 years behind bars under his federal indictment.
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Yet what is all but certain is that Grimm can’t survive politically once he admits guilt. After all, it was Grimm himself who suggested that if he was convicted, he would step down.
“If things don’t go my way, right? And I had to step down in January, then there will be a special election, and at least the people of Staten Island and Brooklyn can then have qualified candidates to choose from,” Grimm said during an October radio interview.
His likely departure is stark contrast to his personal and professional history of fighting on — surviving stints in the FBI and Marine Corps, and fights with the media, literally.
He survived five years in the New York City underworld as a “deep undercover agent” for the FBI, and then emerged a brash-talking congressman from a competitive House district, ushered into Congress as part of the historic Republican wave of 2010.
Once on Capitol Hill, Grimm helped pass legislation to steer billions of dollars in federal money to the New York area following the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, despite objections from fiscal hardliners in his own party.
Last January, when a local New York City TV reporter asked him about his mounting legal woes, the 44-year-old Grimm threatened to throw the reporter off a balcony. Grimm patched up the disagreement with a lunch.
After facing a federal criminal investigation for several years – which included the FBI, where he once served – Grimm was finally indicted on 20 federal counts in April, including failing to report $1 million from a restaurant he owned before coming to Congress. Despite the public outcry, all Grimm had to do was step down from the Financial Services Committee before he sailed to re-election in his Brooklyn- and Staten Island-based district.
Even before the indictment, Grimm survived a brutal New Yorker magazine profile, which reported that he pulled a gun on a friend’s estranged husband in a nightclub. More recently, a New York City tabloid claimed Grimm spent 17 minutes in a pub bathroom with a female friend. Grimm simply he denied that claim and moved on.
For the handsome, one-time college dropout turned professional pol, it was just keep moving, no matter what happened. Always in motion, always with a quick response to whatever was thrown his way. Always with the chin up, eyes fixed on target, and no looking back.
“I know who I am, and I know what I’ve done for this country… I know I’m a moral man, a man of integrity,” Grimm declared when he was indicted. “We’re going to fight tooth and nail until I am fully exonerated.”
But now Grimm’s fate could be taken out of his own hands.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) have been quiet thus far. It’s a holiday week, and the Capitol is mostly deserted.
Yet Boehner has historically had little tolerance for beleaguered lawmakers, even for those he’s those he considers personal friends. Boehner gives his colleagues plenty of rope, but he will yank it back if they cross the line.
Under his leadership, former Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.) was forced to resign after it was discovered that Lee used his downtime at a GOP legislative retreat to send partially clad photos of himself to a woman he met online. Boehner pushed former Indiana Rep. Mark Souder to resign when it came out that the congressman was having an affair with an aide. Alaska Rep. Don Young was made to give up a top committee slot when he faced a criminal probe. When Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York was under investigation for evading taxes, Boehner called on him to relinquish the chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.
Democrats around town are already salivating at Grimm’s situation, and they seem ready to pounce once a guilty plea is formally entered. When Republicans have to go home and explain why a criminal is still casting votes in the House chamber, a resignation doesn’t seem far off.
Boehner and other GOP leadership typically operate in a quiet, behind-the-scenes manner in situations like this. If they believe Grimm should resign, they will let him know, and then give him time to step down. If he is slow to give up his seat, Boehner will go public and try to pressure him to move on.
This isn’t a welcome distraction right now for Boehner and McCarthy. Republicans just won a historic majority in the House, and criminal misdeeds will only distract a GOP leadership looking to finally get things done. Grimm also isn’t the only Republican in hot water right now. Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold is facing a civil suit, which alleges improper behavior in his office.
The House Ethics Committee has deferred its own investigation into Grimm while the federal criminal case was ongoing. If Grimm were not to resign, the secretive panel – evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats – would be expected to begin looking into the allegations against him. Potential sanctions by Ethics, which will be chaired by Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) in the next Congress, could include expulsion, although that would take several months and would formally require a vote by the full House. The last member expelled was the late Rep. Jim Traficant (Ohio) in 2002.
If Grimm were to simply resign, his departure could very easily cost Republicans a seat. His district is only slightly Republican. Democrats have not had much success fielding strong candidates to take Grimm on, but they have held the seat in recent years. Domenic Recchia, a former New York City councilman, was such a poor candidate that the New York Daily News’s editorial page endorsed Grimm despite the criminal indictment, saying Recchia was “so dumb, ill-informed, evasive and inarticulate that voting for a thuggish Republican who could wind up in a prison jumpsuit starts to make rational sense.” Grimm won by 16 points.
Yet in the House, Grimm doesn’t have a ton of friends right now. After leaving the Financial Services panel, Grimm is currently not serving on any committees. His campaign war chest is basically empty; as of early December, he had a paltry $77,958 on hand. He owes the law firm Squire Patton Boggs $431,788. Raising money is going to be difficult, if not impossible, for him to do.
But with the biggest House GOP majority since Herbert Hoover – 247 seats – Republicans can afford to give up one seat, and then focus on winning a special election.