During a Monday night debate, ex-convict and former Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) upended an already contentious primary by accusing the incumbent he is challenging, Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY), of offering to get him a presidential pardon in exchange for Grimm’s promise to keep out of the race, according to a Thursday Politico report.
Grimm pleaded guilty to tax evasion charges in 2014 and served seven months in prison, being forced to give up his congressional seat.
Donovan acknowledges talking to President Donald Trump about the pardon on Air Force One last summer, but hotly denies that he did it to keep Grimm, who had not yet entered the race, from campaigning. Per Politico, he claims that he raised the issue with Trump at the behest of Guy Molinari, a former Staten Island congressman with ties to Grimm, Donovan, and Trump.
The relationship between Molinari and Donovan has since broken down, as Molinari has thrown his support behind Grimm for the Republican candidacy.
According to Donovan’s account of his meeting with Trump, he did raise the issue but was rebuffed by Trump aides who insisted he go through the proper channels of the DOJ to obtain a pardon. Grimm remembers things differently, claiming that Donovan indicated after meeting with Trump that he would be able to obtain the pardon if Grimm would forego the election.
Per Politico, Donovan currently has Trump’s endorsement as well as the support of House GOP leaders, but is struggling with anemic fundraising totals and Grimm’s enduring popularity in the district.
Democrats are salivating on the sidelines, hoping that the Republican kerfuffle will leave the seat vulnerable to a robust challenge and possible flip come November.