GOP Rep. Michael Grimm, representing New York’s 11th congressional district (Staten Island/Brooklyn), keeps making the news, and not in ways that he wants. Grimm is a congressman who was brought into office in 2010 with support from the rightwing Israel lobby; he is being investigated by the FBI for circumventing campaign finance (he got half a million dollars from an Israeli rabbi’s followers even after his ex girlfriend took the rap for funneling the money to Grimm). Ynet reported earlier this month:
An FBI investigation into Republican Congressman Michael Grimm’s campaign finances ties him to Israeli Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto through donations of more than half a million dollars, and has also led to suspicions of senior Israeli police officers accepting bribes from Pinto.
Then on Tuesday night, The Nation reports, Grimm threatened to throw Michael Scotto, a reporter for NY1, off a balcony at the Capitol Rotunda after the State of the Union address. Scotto was merely trying to squeeze in a question about the ongoing federal investigation.
“And just finally before we let you go, we haven’t had a chance to talk about some of the…” Scotto began before Grimm cut him off.
“I’m not speaking to you off-topic, this is only about the president,” said Grimm, before walking off camera.
“So Congressman Michael Grimm does not want to talk about some of the allegations concerning his campaign finances,” Scotto said before tossing back to the station. But as the camera continued to roll, Grimm walked back up to Scotto and began speaking to him in a low voice.
“What?” Scotto responded. “I just wanted to ask you…”
Grimm: “Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I’ll throw you off this f——-g balcony.”
Radical. There’s more:
Scotto: “Why? I just wanted to ask you…”
Grimm: “If you ever do that to me again…”
Scotto: “Why? Why? It’s a valid question.”
Grimm: “No, no, you’re not man enough, you’re not man enough. I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.”
Touchy! The Nation published Grimm’s excuse. Something about being “extremely annoyed” because he was just doing a “favor” for the reporter. Later, (probably after realizing his threat was caught on camera) he apologized:
I was wrong. I shouldn’t have allowed my emotions to get the better of me and lose my cool. I have apologized to Michael Scotto
Here’s some of the back story. In 2008, Phil Weiss went to Grimm’s district, which had lately elected a Democrat:
Last night I heard something too stupendous to be believed. I was in a Christian church serving the Arab community in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn… and a local Arab leader, Dr. Ahmad Jaber, said he had gotten a promise from Michael McMahon, the congressman-elect for New York’s 13th District, that he would visit the West Bank to see for himself the apartheid conditions there.
The New York Times also reported that McMahon had major Arab-American and Muslim support.
Then in 2010, McMahon was unseated by Grimm, in a close race, 51-48 percent. The Almanac Of American Politics says Grimm won by calling McMahon “Tax Hike Mike.” But Israel was plainly a factor in the race. McMahon even signed a letter calling on Obama to commute spy Jonathan Pollard’s sentence. He lost the race, though he reportedly won the Jewish vote in the district. And in 2012 Grimm was reelected.
Here’s more from Ynet on the ongoing Grimm FBI saga.
The affair came to light due to an FBI wiretap agreed to by Pinto as part of a settlement with the bureau, after Pinto filed a blackmail complaint resulting the rabbi having to testify against Grimm, the New York Republican Congressman and former FBI agent….
Grimm visited Israel several times, even meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat……The paper said that Grimm was in contact with Ofer Biton, one of Pinto’s assistants, in order to raise money for his election from the rabbi’s followers.
Grimm, it said, had good reason to turn to the popular rabbi since he needed a great deal of money. Pinto supplied the funds to the Republican incumbent, a Catholic who prays every Sunday in church.
Grimm was able to raise more than half a million dollars – which comprised half of his total fundraising for the election, the FBI revealed.
Biton is being investigated on the suspect of embezzling millions of dollars from Pinto’s followers. The New York Times also reported that there were illegal donations that included cash transfers and straw companies. The followers said they gave the money because Biton said Pinto wanted his followers to donate to the politician.
Pinto’s spokesman told the Times that the rabbi had met with Grimm but he wasn’t aware of the donations. Biton outright denied any connection to raising funds for Grimm. Despite the denials, the FBI’s investigation brought to an arrest of Grimm’s former girlfriend on charges of circumventing federal campaign laws to funnel money to Grimm, the New York Daily News reported.
A Catholic who prays every Sunday in church gets the loot from a rabbi? Sounds like it might make a great Hollywood script.
Update: McMahon and Grimm fought for the Jewish vote and for Jewish donors in 2010; and as we noted, McMahon reportedly won the Jewish vote in the district. My headline originally stated that Grimm is a poster boy for the Israel lobby. I changed it. –Weiss.