Michel Grimm, the ex-felon running for his old congressional seat in New York City, has earned plenty of support among the president’s allies for his unabashedly pro-Trump campaign.
But there’s one notable exception: Rudy Giuliani.
Giuliani, who has been serving as Trump’s personal lawyer, announced over the weekend that he’s endorsing Grimm’s opponent in the GOP primary, Rep. Dan Donovan, and plans to hit the stump on Donovan’s behalf. In an interview with the New York Post, Giuliani said that Grimm “should back off” and suggested that his checkered past made it more difficult for the GOP to retain control of the district.
“Dan would win re-election for sure,” Giuliani told the Post. “With Grimm as the nominee, it would be a battle to hold the seat. It would be a heavier lift.”
The comments from the former New York City mayor add further intrigue to the unexpectedly tight race for the seat Grimm was forced to give up in 2015 when he was sentenced on felony tax evasion charges.
Grimm is running hard as the #MAGA candidate, hiring former Trump aide Michael Caputo as a communications advisor, meeting last year with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and, on Saturday, hosting a fundraiser with short-lived White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci. The Post reported that the event, where Scaramucci described Grimm as a “guy with a heart of gold and a backbone of steel,” pulled in some $20,000.
But Grimm’s devotion to the President’s agenda — and praise for his “massive hands” — has yet to secure him the backing of the Commander-in-Chief himself.
And Caputo acknowledged that Giuliani’s endorsement carries real weight in the district, which covers Staten Island and parts of south Brooklyn.
“The mayor goes way back with [those neighborhoods],” Caputo told TPM in a Monday phone interview. “His support for any candidate is a positive thing for them.”
Though Caputo said that he respected Giuliani “completely” and knew from the campaign’s early days that he would align himself with Donovan, a former Staten Island district attorney, because of their histories in the New York political world, he tossed a few light barbs Giuliani’s way.
“I’m not going to criticize his decision to support the wrong candidate,” Caputo said, adding that, “No matter how many times Donovan votes against the President, I’m sure that the mayor will be there for him.”
Donovan voted against both the GOP tax bill and the failed May 2017 effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Yet he, too, has sought to frame himself as an ally of the president — just a more serious, measured one than his opponent.
Grimm is arguably best known for getting in the face of a NY1 reporter who asked about his legal troubles, threatening to toss him over a Capitol Hill balcony and break him “like a boy.”
Neither that incident nor Grimm’s prison sentence seem to concern voters in the district, who actually re-elected him in 2014 while he was facing a 20-count indictment.
All that Grimm needs to do to secure a win in the June 26 primary, Caputo said, is to continue to prove to local Republican voters that he is “the more solid and reliable ally of the President.”
Correction: This piece originally identified Caputo as Grimm’s campaign manager rather than communications advisor.