Grimm’s House Ethics Inquiry Delayed at Feds’ Request

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) speaks to the media, January 2, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. 
National Journal
Billy House
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Billy House
May 23, 2014, 9:22 a.m.

The House Eth­ics Com­mit­tee says it is open­ing its own in­vest­ig­a­tion — sort of — in­to pos­sible mis­con­duct by in­dicted Rep. Mi­chael Grimm, but that it won’t get star­ted right away.

“The De­part­ment of Justice has asked the com­mit­tee to de­fer con­sid­er­a­tion of the mat­ters in the in­vest­ig­at­ive sub­com­mit­tee’s jur­is­dic­tion,” said Reps. Mike Con­away, R-Texas, and Linda Sanc­hez, D-Cal­if., in a joint state­ment Fri­day an­noun­cing the eth­ics in­quiry.

When, and if, the House in­quiry does ever be­gin, Con­away and Sanc­hez said they will them­selves serve as the top two law­makers on the in­vest­ig­at­ive sub­pan­el that has been already ap­poin­ted by the com­mit­tee.

The an­nounce­ment of the Eth­ics Com­mit­tee’s ac­tion was not un­ex­pec­ted. If and when the in­vest­ig­at­ive sub­com­mit­tee does pro­ceed with a probe — and the en­tire com­mit­tee ul­ti­mately agrees with any find­ing of mis­con­duct — pun­it­ive ac­tions the House could take against Grimm, a Re­pub­lic­an from Staten Is­land, range from a “let­ter of re­prov­al” to a re­com­mend­a­tion of ex­pul­sion, a de­cision that would re­quire a full-blown Eth­ics Com­mit­tee in­quiry.

Grimm, 44, a former FBI agent, was in­dicted last month by fed­er­al pro­sec­utors in New York on 20 counts of fraud, per­jury, mail and wire fraud, and oth­er charges tied to his Man­hat­tan res­taur­ant. Among ac­cus­a­tions is that he tried to hide more than $1 mil­lion in rev­en­ue, and pro­sec­utors also said he hired un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants.

Grimm has pleaded not guilty and is free on bond.

And for now, news of an im­pend­ing House Eth­ics Com­mit­tee in­vest­ig­a­tion would ap­pear to be one of the less­er leg­al wor­ries fa­cing Grimm.

In fact, Fri­day’s an­nounce­ment was es­sen­tially a form­al­ity. “Un­der the House Rules, today’s routine an­nounce­ment by the Com­mit­tee on Eth­ics was fully ex­pec­ted,” said Grimm’s at­tor­ney, Wil­li­am Mc­Gin­ley.

That’s be­cause House rules re­quire the com­mit­tee to make a de­cision on wheth­er to open such an in­vest­ig­a­tion “not later than 30 days after a mem­ber of the House is in­dicted or oth­er­wise form­ally charged with crim­in­al con­duct in any Fed­er­al, State or loc­al court.”

When it does pro­ceed with an in­quiry, the com­mit­tee is re­spons­ible for in­vest­ig­at­ing wheth­er House mem­bers have vi­ol­ated the cham­ber’s Code of Of­fi­cial Con­duct or “any law, reg­u­la­tion, or oth­er ap­plic­able stand­ard of con­duct” in the per­form­ance of their du­ties or the dis­charge of his re­spons­ib­il­it­ies.

The an­nounce­ment Fri­day said that join­ing Con­away and Sanc­hez on the in­vest­ig­at­ive sub­pan­el are Reps. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., and Ted Deutch, D-Fla. But the pan­el’s work is be­ing put off.

The Justice De­part­ment asked it to de­fer ac­tion, as fed­er­al pro­sec­utors con­tin­ue put­ting to­geth­er their case. In re­sponse, Con­away and Sanc­hez said, “The Com­mit­tee, fol­low­ing pre­ced­ent, un­an­im­ously voted to re­com­mend to the In­vest­ig­at­ive Sub­com­mit­tee that it de­fer ac­tion on its in­vest­ig­a­tion at this time.”

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