House ethics panel defers to DOJ on probe of Rep. Grimm

The House Ethics Committee is deferring to the Department of Justice in an investigation of Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) for the possible violation of campaign finance laws.

In a statement issued Monday, the panel said it voted unanimously to honor a request from the Justice Department to defer its probe of the freshman Staten Island congressman.

The FBI has been investigating Grimm over allegations that he received hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions. A former fundraiser for Grimm, Ofer Biton, was arrested over the summer, and several members of his campaign staff have been called to testify before a federal grand jury.

Grimm, a former FBI agent, won reelection to a second term in the House earlier this month.

The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) referred an investigation into Grimm’s campaign finances to the House Ethics Committee in July. It asked the panel to determine whether Grimm violated federal laws by soliciting and accepting illegal donations and whether he “improperly sought assistance from a foreign national in soliciting campaign contributions in exchange for offering to use his official position to assist that individual in obtaining a green card.”

Grimm has denied any wrongdoing. His attorney, William McGinley, said the move by the Ethics panel “comes as no surprise.”

“We appreciate the committee’s decision to defer consideration of this matter while we continue to work with the Department of Justice to favorably resolve the false allegations against Congressman Grimm,” McGinley said. “Any fair and objective review of all of the facts in this matter will conclude that Congressman Grimm engaged in no wrongdoing. We are confident that the Department of Justice and the Ethics Committee will reach that result.”

While the OCE recommended dismissal of the case because it centered on activity that occurred before Grimm took office, the Ethics panel unanimously voted to assert its jurisdiction, citing a precedent that campaign activity was within its purview.

However, the Ethics Committee simultaneously agreed to the Justice Department’s request to set the inquiry aside during the federal investigation.

— Updated at 7:30 p.m.