Staten Island Congressman Michael Grimm, who The New York Times‘ sources allege took illegal bribes, continued his efforts to push back against the allegations last night, appearing on NY1′s “Inside City Hall.” The host, Errol Louis, pressed him the specifics of the case that centered on an Israeli mystic, Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, and one of his top aides, Ofer Biton.
Disputing he raised anywhere close to the $500,000 the Times reported he raised from Rabbi Pinto’s followers, Mr. Grimm aggressively defended his relationship with Rabbi Pinto.
“The Rabbi introduced me to many important businessmen, very successful business people, and that’s how I raised money,” he said, adding later that the businessmen supported him because he was “pro-Israel, lower taxes, strong for business, that’s what they were looking for and that’s why they supported me.”
Much of the Times story places Mr. Biton at the heart of the alleged fundraising scheme, but Mr. Grimm was incredulous that Mr. Biton could have done any of the things reported.
“Ofer was nothing more than the Rabbi’s assistant. Nobody listens to his assistant,” he said. ”The Rabbi made the introductions and Ofer merely did administrative things like reminding me who I met and where to go see them.”
When Mr. Louis asked Mr. Grimm if he was overly concerned with the Times report that Mr. Biton is being investigated by the F.B.I. and federal prosecutors for embezzling money from Rabbi Pinto, Mr. Grimm also doubted the credibility of the report.
“To be honest with you, I was in the FBI as a special agent for 11 years. I’ve never heard of an FBI agent leaking that stuff to the press,” he answered. “First of all, if this guy is an Israeli, why would you leak to the press that he’s under investigation? He could just flee. Why would they do it? It just doesn’t even make sense that they would do that.”
“I have no proof that there’s an investigation,” he added.