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“An Entitled, Unhinged Nightmare”: The Real Problem With Dangerous Goon Michael Grimm

New York Rep. Michael Grimm is an unstable, possibly dangerous goon. That much was obvious in the video in which he corners and threatens NY1 reporter Michael Scotto. His act may not have surprised readers of the New Yorker’s 2011 profile of Grimm, which describes the 1999 night that Grimm, brandishing a gun, terrorized a nightclub full of people in search of a man with whom he’d fought earlier. Grimm’s propensity for abusive language and ridiculous macho posturing was also well-known to New York and Washington reporters.

Grimm’s actions that night at the Caribbean Tropics nightclub in Queens would have likely put a regular citizen in jail for years. But Grimm was not a regular citizen: He was an FBI agent at the time, and thus, after an internal investigation, he received no punishment at all. (The NYPD has declined repeated requests to release public records related to the incident.)

A former political opponent of Grimm’s, Mark Murphy, shared his explanation of Grimm’s behavior with TPM’s Hunter Walker:

Mark Murphy, a Democrat who lost a House race against Grimm in 2012, spoke to TPM and said that while he has no direct evidence he believes that steroid use is responsible for multiple incidents where Grimm and a man he described as the congressman’s “bodyguard” have lost their cool.

“These guys are wrapped so tight from the steroids that they’re on, it’s insane,” Murphy said.

Murphy could be purely speculating, or passing on rumors. But it’s not a wildly far-fetched theory. Steroid use in law enforcement is nearly impossible to study, because cops operate under a quasi-state-sanctioned code of silence regarding one another’s misdeeds, but it seems pervasive, and officers are busted regularly in cities across the country. Two NYPD deputy chiefs were even caught in a steroid probe in 2007 (neither was punished). The FBI has, I think, stricter drug screening protocols than most local police departments, but agents purchasing steroids is certainly not unheard of. (Also, if baseball has taught us nothing else about steroid use, it’s taught us that it’s easier to trace the purchasing of steroids than test for their use.)

But maybe Grimm isn’t roided out. It’s quite possible that Grimm is an unhinged nightmare of toxic, entitled machismo completely without the aid of chemical enhancement. People with those sorts of personalities seem for some reason particularly drawn to careers in law enforcement. It might have something to do with being allowed to wield power over others through physical intimidation and outright violence without fear of reprisal or even societal disapproval?

Because we for some reason allow law enforcement officers to steal money, raid homes, shoot pets and sometimes wave guns around in nightclubs without going to prison. Cops routinely plant drugs on suspects and lie about it in court. We indulge the widespread law enforcement belief that they are soldiers in a “war on crime,” and that the danger and importance of their mission justifies excessive force and rule-bending.

The FBI’s rule-bending is admittedly more sophisticated than that of your average urban police force. The bureau specializes in convincing nitwits to attempt ridiculous bombing plots that they otherwise would’ve never conceived of. They rely on sketchy criminal informants, like Josef von Habsburg, a con man who worked with Agent Grimm, ginning up federal crimes for cash, like so many other FBI informants.

Grimm is just what happens when the worst sort of hyper-aggressive lawman transitions into another field where being a short-tempered bullying prick is rewarded rather than punished: conservative politics. The sort of person who very much wants to be a cop or an FBI undercover agent is the sort of person we should least trust with the job. While it’s tempting to say we also shouldn’t trust those sorts of men in politics, we’re probably safer with Grimm in Congress than with a badge and a license to use deadly force. Now, after all, he actually gets in trouble for his gangster movie tough guy act.

And because he represents Staten Island, New York City’s incongruous outpost of white reactionary resentment, we should probably not get our hopes up about getting rid of him any time soon.

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, January 30, 2014

February 1, 2014 Posted by | Law Enforcement, Michael Grimm | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“All Right, There Are Two Republican Parties”: From The Comically Rote To The Grimm Series

Republican pundits have been arguing recently that immigration reform could splinter the party ahead of the 2014 elections. They shouldn’t be worrying about immigration. The Republicans’ response to President Obama’s State of the Union showed that the G.O.P. is actually two parties, or perhaps even more.

There were three organized responses — one official, one Tea Party, one libertarian — and one impromptu response involving the buffoonish behavior of a Congressman from Staten Island. (More about that in a minute.)

The Stepford Response: The official rebuttal, delivered by Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, was comically rote and devoid of real content.

Ms. Rodgers started with the obligatory summation of her humble beginnings — a “nation where a girl who worked at the McDonald’s Drive Thru to help pay for college can be with you from the United States Capitol.” These tired stories — which Mr. Obama also tossed into his speech — are nearly as old as the republic.

She then went on to say: “The most important moments right now aren’t happening here. They’re not in the Oval Office or in the House chamber. They’re in your homes. Kissing your kids goodnight. Figuring out how to pay bills. Getting ready for tomorrow’s doctor visit. Waiting to hear from those you love serving in Afghanistan, or searching for that big job interview.”

Everyone with a heart values those moments. They happen to be exactly the same kind of moments that Mr. Obama evoked in his State of the Union. The difference is that the president offered a series of proposals about how to improve the lives of Americans and address the fundamental inequality in the country. Ms. Rodger offered none, just the usual misty-eyed evocations of the “real America” that are meant to imply that the rest of us do not belong.

The Storm the Castle Response: Representative Mike Lee of Utah delivered a spirited Tea Party rebuttal. He launched an attack on “ever-growing government” and celebrated the way that the original Boston patriots, who held the Original Tea Party, did not just stop there.

“It took them 14 long years to get from Boston to Philadelphia, where they created, with our Constitution, the kind of government they did want,” Mr. Lee said, glossing over what happened during those years — a full-blown, bloody revolution. I guess he’s not preaching that for now.

Mr. Lee talked a lot about inequality, which he blamed entirely on Washington, and mostly on Democrats, as if the kind of de-regulation that he presumably favors did not produce an out-of-control financial industry whose irresponsibility and excesses almost destroyed the economy.

The Non-Threatening Insurgent: Senator Rand Paul, the self-appointed leader of libertarians, delivered an extremely amiable speech.

He started, of course, with what seems to be his all-time favorite quote, Ronald Reagan saying that “government is not the answer to the problem, government is the problem.” And he salted his speech with folksy sayings. We should not “reshuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic,” he said, although I wasn’t entirely sure what he was talking about. Listening to Mr. Paul is entertaining. “It’s not that government is inherently stupid,” he said, “although it’s a debatable point.”

But he has an odd sense of cause and effect. He said the recession, mass unemployment and the stock crash of 2008 were “caused by the Federal Reserve,” because it encouraged banks to give money to people who could not pay it back.  But he left out the fact that it was the lifting of financial regulations on the banks that actually spurred them to do dangerous things, like offer risky loans. So when Mr. Paul talked about nixing other “burdensome, job killing regulations,” I got worried.

The most interesting thing about his comments was how much milder they were than last year, when he said that the true bipartisanship of Washington was the failure of both of the main political parties in pretty much every area. Is he running for president?

The Class Clown Response: Although not an official or even unofficial rebuttal, Rep. Michael Grimm of Staten Island’s comments after the State of the Union seem to say…something…about the Republican Party.

In a post-address interview, Michael Scotto of NY1 dared to stray from the topic at hand, asking Mr. Grimm about a federal investigation into his campaign fund-raising.

Mr. Grimm grew so irritated that he threatened to throw Mr. Scott off the balcony, or alternatively to “break you in half. Like a boy.” He tossed in at least one profanity and informed Mr. Scotto that “you’re not man enough, you’re not man enough.” It’s not clear what for.

Mr. Grimm at first tried to explain his behavior by saying that it wasn’t fair to add questions about the criminal case to an interview on the State of the Union. After several hours of everyone pointing out how ridiculous that was, NY1 said Mr. Grimm finally apologized.

 

By: Andrew Rosenthal, Opinion Pages, The New York Times, January 29, 2014

January 31, 2014 Posted by | Republicans, State of the Union | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Just The Tip Of The Iceberg”: The Real Scandal With Tough-Guy Rep Michael Grimm

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), a two-term Staten Island congressman with stints in the Marines and FBI, grabbed our attention after President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night. More specifically, he grabbed NY1 reporter Michael Scotto after Scotto asked him about a bubbling campaign finance scandal, memorably uttering these words, caught on the rolling camera’s video (watch http://youtu.be/425ysh-24wo):

Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I’ll throw you off this f—ing balcony…. You’re not man enough, you’re not man enough. I’ll break you in half. Like a boy. [NY1]

Alright, that’s probably a sentiment a lot of politicians have wanted to convey to a reporter. But now, thanks to Grimm’s threats, everybody knows that he is embroiled in, and touchy about, something to do with allegedly illegal campaign donations. Before we get to that story, Grimm decided to address his partial-on-camera outburst with this statement:

I was extremely annoyed because I was doing NY1 a favor by rushing to do their interview first in lieu of several other requests. The reporter knew that I was in a hurry and was only there to comment on the State of the Union, but insisted on taking a disrespectful and cheap shot at the end of the interview because I did not have time to speak off-topic. I verbally took the reporter to task and told him off because I expect a certain level of professionalism and respect, especially when I go out of my way to do that reporter a favor. I doubt that I am the first member of Congress to tell off a reporter, and I am sure I won’t be the last.

MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin sarcastically cuts to the PR lesson:

Well this careful apology should ensure this Michael Grimm story goes away fast pic.twitter.com/vMymkxViuZ

But here’s the story Scotto was asking Grimm about in the Capitol rotunda: Last week, the FBI arrested Grimm’s fundraiser (and ex-girlfriend) Diana Durand on charges of illegally contributing more than $10,000 to Grimm’s 2010 campaign through straw donors. Here’s how the New York Daily News describes the alleged “donor swapping”:

The swapping works like this: A donor who gives the maximum to Candidate A then donates to Candidate B — and in return, a donor or friend of Candidate B gives an identical amount to Candidate A. [NY Daily News]

In one case described by the Daily News, Candidate A was Bert Mizusawa, a GOP House candidate in Virginia, and the maxed-out donor was Washington lawyer Bazil Facchina; Durand was the second alleged donor, and Grimm Candidate B. The newspaper said its review of 2010 federal campaign finance record found at least another 20 such transactions involving Grimm and fellow candidates in California, South Dakota, Illinois, and Virginia.

The Daily News investigation implicates Grimm personally in one questionable transaction, but he’s not listed in the Justice Department indictment. But Grimm has been under investigation for two years, and Durand is merely the newest wrinkle. In August, Ofer Biton — a former top aide to Israeli Orthodox Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto — pleaded guilty to visa fraud; in early 2012, The New York Times reported that Biton and Grimm allegedly sought illegal campaign donations from Pinto followers, including large cash contributions and donations from undocumented immigrants.

Even with those allegations, Grimm’s constituents re-elected him in 2012, 48 percent to 43 percent. He first won election in the GOP wave of 2010, unseating freshman Democrat Michael McMahon by about three points. But let’s face it, campaign finance violations fall into the category of “boring but important,” with an emphasis on boring. Threatening to murder a reporter with your bare hands? Not boring.

And that’s not even the most colorful story in Grimm’s recent past. (No, I’m not talking about this one.) In 2006, after leaving the FBI, he opened up a health food restaurant with an alleged mobster with ties to the Gambino crime family. And in 2011, Evan Ratliff wrote about FBI undercover operations in The New Yorker, including some eyebrow-raising allegations about Grimm from a New York City Police officer who was moonlighting as a bouncer. At the time, July 1999, Grimm was an FBI agent, apparently dating a married woman.

According to the NYPD officer, Gordon Williams, Grimm and the woman entered a nightclub in Queens, Caribbean Tropics, around midnight and ran into the woman’s estranged husband. Williams broke up the ensuing altercation, but says Grimm and the husband returned at 2:30 a.m. for a standoff in the club’s garage, with Grimm waving a gun around, screaming he was going to kill the guy, and saying: “I’m a fucking FBI agent, ain’t nobody going to threaten me.” Ratliff then recounts this epilogue:

Grimm left the club, but at 4 a.m., just before the club closed, he returned again, according to Williams, this time with another FBI agent and a group of NYPD officers. Grimm had told the police that he had been assaulted by the estranged husband and his friends. Williams said that Grimm took command of the scene, and refused to let the remaining patrons and employees leave. “Everybody get up against the fucking wall,” Williams recalled him saying. “The FBI is in control.” Then Grimm, who apparently wanted to find the man with whom he’d had the original altercation, said something that Williams said he’ll never forget: “All the white people get out of here.” [New Yorker]

Completely accurate or not (Grimm says not), that’s a pretty juicy story. And not many people would know about it if Grimm had kept his temper in check Tuesday night.

 

By: Peter Weber, The Week, January 29, 2014

January 30, 2014 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Michael Grimm | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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