It’s been a few years since we heard from former New York Republican congressman Michael Grimm. When we last checked in, he was resigning from his office and preparing for a trip to the crowbar motel on charges of tax evasion, wire fraud and other “questionable” activities. And none of those had to do with his widely discussed threats to throw a reporter off the balcony at the Capitol following the State of the Union address. In terms of usual American Politics, that’s generally enough to put anyone’s career permanently in a pair of cement overshoes.
Not in this case, however. Grimm is back and looking to return to his old seat in Congress. To do so, he would have to remove the person currently holding it in the upcoming primary on June 26th. That would be Dan Donovan, and some observers think that Grimm’s odds aren’t all that bad. (Associated Press)
Just two years out of prison, the amateur boxer with a fiery temper wants his old job back. And he has a legitimate chance to seize the nomination from the incumbent, Dan Donovan.
Just don’t ask Grimm about his time behind bars for tax fraud.
“I’m done talking about it,” Grimm said in a recent Associated Press interview, blaming his seven-month stay in a federal prison on a politically motivated Justice Department under the Obama administration. “It’s a closed chapter in my life. I’m looking to the future.”
President Donald Trump spotlighted the race this past week with a Twitter endorsement of Donovan, warning that a Grimm primary victory would risk losing the GOP’s only U.S. House seat in the city.
The President set forth his position pretty clearly on Twitter.
There is no one better to represent the people of N.Y. and Staten Island (a place I know very well) than @RepDanDonovan, who is strong on Borders & Crime, loves our Military & our Vets, voted for Tax Cuts and is helping me to Make America Great Again. Dan has my full endorsement!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2018
Very importantly, @RepDanDonovan will win for the Republicans in November…and his opponent will not. Remember Alabama. We can’t take any chances on losing to a Nancy Pelosi controlled Democrat!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2018
The 11th congressional district moved quite a bit after the 2010 census and became solidly Republican. Cook still rates it as R +3 but the turnout swings more than that. Donovan won with around 60% of the vote the last two cycles. But it’s definitely Grimm’s old stomping grounds and you can find people who still support him. I will agree that he seemed to get an unusually harsh sentence for the tax schemes involving a restaurant he was a part owner of, but he did wind up being guilty. That doesn’t bar him from office, but when you combine it with his erratic temper, it does seem like the district’s Republican residents would be tempting fate and possibly opening the door for the Democrats if they toss Donovan out in favor of giving Grimm another chance.
The more interesting aspect of this brewing battle is that Grimm claims Donovan suggested a full pardon from President Trump might be coming his way if he dropped out. Donovan denies it and the White House hasn’t commented on it either way, but Grimm doesn’t make any bones about it. When asked if he was interested in a pardon he responded enthusiastically in the positive.
Just in terms of the optics, if a relatively safe GOP seat in New York is going to come down to whether or not Donald Trump is going to give your guy a pardon, well… it’s not pretty. As I already said, NY-11 looks like it should still go to the winner of the primary, but it would be crazy to offer the Democrats a chance to snatch it up when there is still concern over holding the majority in the House this fall.
Before we close, let’s take a walk down memory lane with Mr. Grimm. Here’s his performance with the reporter who he threatened to “break in half… like a boy.”