April 28th, 2014
12:05 PM ET
4 months ago

Grimm arrest makes re-election tougher

Updated at 4:00pm ET, 4/28/2014

(CNN) - He already faced a tough re-election this year, but things are now even tougher for Republican Rep. Michael Grimm. And national Democrats are pouncing.

The two-term Republican, who represents New York's 11th Congressional District, entered a not guilty plea Monday in federal court in Brooklyn to various charges that include mail fraud and hiring undocumented workers, according to an unsealed indictment.

After he was released on bond, Grimm talked to reporters, saying he would fight the charges, which he described as a "political witch hunt."

"As far as all these allegations today I am going to let my legal team take care of these charges and we are going to fight tooth and nail. We are going to fight tooth and nail until I am fully exonerated. So let me be perfectly clear I will not abandon my post or the wonderful people who entrusted me to represent them. I have their backs and I know that they have mine. I will get right back to work as I always have. With honor and distinction I will serve and then, on top of all that, I have an election to win," Grimm said.

Grimm, a tough-talking former Marine and undercover FBI agent, narrowly won the district, which includes the entire New York City borough of Staten Island and the Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, and Dyker Heights neighborhoods of Brooklyn, in his 2010 election and 2012 re-election. But President Barack Obama narrowly carried the district in his re-election victory.

Even before the latest developments, Grimm was facing a tough re-election against Democrat Domenic Recchia, a former city councilman. And national Democrats see the race as one of their top pick up chances this November.

"This race was already one of our best pickup opportunities in the country, with a strong Democratic candidate running against a scandal-plagued Republican congressman for a seat where voters supported President Obama. It's never been more clear that the people of Staten Island and Brooklyn deserve new responsible representation," Rep. Steve Israel of New York, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement on Monday.

The rival National Republican Congressional Committee declined to comment. But the New York State Republican Committee called the charges politically motivated

"The Holder Justice Department has been among the most political in history. Congressman Grimm will have his day in court and we would all be wise to reserve judgment until more facts emerge," said David Laska, communications director for the New York Republican State Committee.

Grimm was in the national spotlight following the State of the Union in January, when a clip of him threatening to throw a reporter over a Capitol Hill balcony went viral. The reporter was trying to ask Grimm about allegations of wrongdoing.

Grimm is accused of not reporting more than $1 million in cash revenue at the Manhattan restaurant he operated from 2007 to 2010, and using the cash to "pay workers off the books," U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch told reporters in New York.

Asked about Grimm on Monday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said "I haven't had a chance to talk to him and I hope to be able to do so today. I will probably be making a statement after that."

Cantor, the number two House Republican, wouldn't answer a question on whether Grimm should keep his seat on the Financial Services Committee.

Re-election chances

A top political handicapper says political damage has already been done.

"Getting arrested usually isn't part of the campaign playbook for vulnerable incumbents facing competitive re-election races. I think Grimm had the advantage in his re-election race but getting arrested usually qualifies as a game-changer," Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report, told CNN.
The Rothenberg Political Report, along with the Cook Political Report, another top non-partisan handicapper, changed their ratings of the race from "Lean Republican" to "Lean Democrat."

CNN changed its ranking of the race from "Tilt Republican" to "Tilt Democrat."

Special coverage: 2014 midterms

Key races to watch in 2014

Even if Grimm did drop out, his name would still appear on the November ballot, as the deadline for a candidate to decline his party's nomination passed two weeks ago. A New York State GOP source said that the only way for Grimm's name not to appear on the ballot in the midterms would be for Grimm to be convicted, to be nominated for a judgeship, or for the congressman to declare residency outside his current district.

Even if the Democrats win back the seat, they still a challenge to win back control of the House. Democrats need a net gain of 17 seats from the GOP to regain control of the chamber. Political handicappers consider that a tall order, considering the shrinking number of competitive congressional districts nationwide.

CNN's Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report

soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Thomas

    Darrell Issa working under cover for truth and justice ?

    Grimm, a tough-talking former Marine and undercover FBI agent who went to the dark side .

    April 28, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  2. Fair is Fair

    Give him his day in court. If he's found guilty, throw away the key.

    April 28, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  3. O'drama ya Mama

    Looks like he just qualified for the 2016 GOP nomination. Becoming a "victim" of the federal government is all you need to start the Koch fund raising. It doesnt matter that he actually did something wrong. All that needs to be said is Obama and the Democrats forced him to do this as a part of the liberal conspiracy. Then you get the GOP party base fired up!

    April 28, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  4. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Democratic witch hunt! Benghazi! IRS!!! Eric Holder is a criminal!!!

    Ok now that that's out of my system....
    Election fraud and hiring undocumented workers??? Aren't these the very same things they accuse the democrats of doing??? And of course the GOP will stand with him, they love criminals as long as they are Republicans.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again.... Republicans are the Queens of Flipping the Script.

    Adios Grimm!!!

    April 28, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  5. The Real Tom Paine

    Let the system do its work, and let the people of Staten Island make their decision accordingly.

    April 28, 2014 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  6. Rudy NYC

    Grimm was in the national spotlight following the State of the Union in January, when a clip of him threatening to throw a reporter over a Capitol Hill balcony went viral. The reporter was trying to ask Grimm about allegations of wrongdoing.
    ---------------------------------
    Mr. Grimm should have been arrested for that incident. The reporter was simply doing his job, but Grimm has a history of animosity towards that particular local NYC station. It should be noted that this is not Grimm's first threat of physical violence with a reporter. Coincidently, the previous near altercation occured over a year ago with another NY1 reporter, Errol Lewis, at the conclusion of an interview INSIDE the network's broadcast studio. The studio immediately banned Grimm from their premises.

    April 28, 2014 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  7. Chris-E...al

    If he did it trow him in jail . If a dem did something wrong holder got your back or want prosecute you do as you please carry on mate .

    April 28, 2014 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  8. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    Give him his day in court. If he's found guilty, throw away the key.
    ---------------------------------
    Oh, he's probably guilty, all right. Boehner, Cantor and other leading Republicans have already distanced themselves. I think this began when some of those off the books employees started lodging complaints. Just imagine. The waiter did it.

    April 28, 2014 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  9. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Don't let the door hit you on the way out tough guy!

    April 28, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  10. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA - Take Back the House

    Him and Christie can share a cell together at Club Fed.

    April 28, 2014 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  11. Thomas

    Now we know why he didn't speak at the NRA convention this weekend in Indiana .

    April 28, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    Dude must've been a really terrible and sucky FBI agent if he couldn't pull this crap off without getting caught.

    April 28, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  13. Malory Archer

    Chris-E...al

    If he did it trow him in jail . If a dem did something wrong holder got your back or want prosecute you do as you please carry on mate .

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Yeah, except a 30-second search of the googlez proves just how wrong you are.

    April 28, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    "The Holder Justice Department has been among the most political in history"

    LOL. Deflection. That has nothing to do with anything. Moreover, you'd have to be a political imbecile to waste that kind of powerplay on a race that was looking very good for your side in the first place. Freekin nonsense. Next up, they're be yelling that the evidence is "skewed."

    And no, Dubya's DOJ has already been proven to be the most political in history, particularly with the way they kept firing anyone with liberal leanings and hiring dyed-in-the-wool Christian conservatives with degrees from fake partisan religio-indoctrination schools like Liberty University. I do believe there were even some memos proving what they were up to.

    April 28, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  15. Lynda/Minnesota

    Oh, I remember this guy. Had a puffed up chest against a journalist not too long ago. Quite the tough talker, too.

    Good riddance ...

    April 28, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  16. Dead Bear

    @Fair is Fair... I agree. After all, it is still innocent until proven guilty in this country and not the other way around. But, I have to admit that his exchange with the local reporter asking questions about the scandal after the State of the Union address was not the response I would expect from an innocent man.

    April 28, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  17. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    When they say that he hired "undocumented workers" are we talking about the illegal immigrants the GOP loves so much to hate unless they are cleaning their house, watching their kids, cutting their grass, cooking their food, and doing their dishes or just somebody who's working papers got caught up in the bureaucratic papermill?
    Just wondering....

    April 28, 2014 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  18. Rudy NYC

    "Even if Grimm did drop out, his name would still appear on the November ballot, as the deadline for a candidate to decline his party's nomination passed two weeks ago. A New York State GOP source said that the only way for Grimm's name not to appear on the ballot in the midterms would be for Grimm to be convicted, to be nominated for a judgeship, or for the congressman to declare residency outside his current district."
    ----------------------------------
    Things that make you say, hmm. That's how you get Grimm's name off of the ballot. He's arrested after the deadline.

    Grimm is severly damaged good, with only a slim to none chance of winning. If Grimm's name were off the ballot, then the Republican odds were dramatically improve. He's not being nominated to the bench. That leaves a conviction, or Grimm voluntarily declaring himself ineligible because he's not a resident. I think Republicans would want to see him off of the ballot, but how do you do it? By convicting him. I'd expect this long running investigation to go to trial fairly quickly.

    April 28, 2014 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  19. Marie MD

    Is the car thief/arsonist anywhere to be seen regarding this guy?
    He did threaten, in camera no less, to throw a reporter off a balcony nd in the Capitol no less. Tsk, tsk.
    Two guys who think they are better looking than they are.

    April 28, 2014 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |