McCarthy holds courtesy meeting with ex-Rep. Grimm

House GOP leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTop Trump ally says potential Amash presidential bid could be problematic in Michigan Ocasio-Cortez on concentration camp remarks: Liz Cheney, GOP 'manipulating pain for political purposes' GOP rep: Trump needs to retaliate against Iran to deter other hostile nations MORE (Calif.) huddled Wednesday with former Rep. Michael Grimm (R), the former New York lawmaker and felon eyeing a comeback in 2020.

“Grimm requested the meeting ahead of a run as a courtesy. As a general practice, McCarthy reciprocates meeting requests with candidates,” said McCarthy spokesman Matt Sparks.

Asked before the meeting whether Grimm had asked for McCarthy’s support, McCarthy replied: “I don’t know. I gotta meet with him.”

Grimm, who served less than a year in prison for tax evasion, earlier told reporters that he is very close to announcing a bid for his old seat, now occupied by Democratic freshman Rep. Max RoseMax RoseGOP hopes dim on reclaiming House Republicans raise concerns over House campaign arm leadership Freshman Democrats call on McConnell to hold vote on election reform bill MORE (D-N.Y.).

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In a tweet with a photo of the Capitol, Grimm hinted at his likely run and put Rose on notice. 

"As majestic as ever! Great seeing some old friends. Don’t get too comfortable, @MaxRose4NY!," he wrote.

While McCarthy hasn’t formally endorsed a candidate in the GOP primary for Rose’s seat, McCarthy’s leadership PAC has already contributed to state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, a Staten Island Republican who was the 2017 GOP nominee for New York City mayor.

Rep. Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerThe Hill's Morning Report - Democrats frustrated by Hope Hicks's silence GOP hopes dim on reclaiming House Republicans raise concerns over House campaign arm leadership MORE (R-Minn.), the head of the House GOP’s campaign arm, said he did not have a meeting with Grimm on his schedule but is staying out of the primary for New York’s 11th District, which includes all of Staten Island and part of South Brooklyn.

Emmer had no comment about Grimm’s potential entry into the race.

“We have a couple of great candidates there. We don’t get involved in primaries. We’re not involved,” Emmer, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), told The Hill.

Grimm resigned from office in January 2015, shortly after he pleaded guilty to a single count of felony tax fraud related to the health food restaurant he owned at the time. He also made waves for threatening to throw a reporter off a balcony in the Capitol because of coverage he perceived as unfavorable.

He tried to make a comeback in 2018, but voters sided with the President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE-endorsed Rep. Dan Donovan in the Republican primary. Rose, a Democrat and Afghanistan war veteran, upset Donovan in the general election last fall, a victory which helped propel Democrats into the majority. Rose was born and raised in Brooklyn but says he now lives in Staten Island.  

Grimm was spotted on the House floor schmoozing with his former colleagues, including Rep. Chris CollinsChristopher (Chris) Carl CollinsMichael Caputo eyes congressional bid House ethics panel renews probes into three GOP lawmakers The Hill's Morning Report - Barr stiff-arms House following Senate grilling MORE (R-N.Y.), who himself is facing federal insider trading charges.

Several Republicans said they saw Grimm during Wednesday’s vote series but they did not speak with him. Rep. Pete KingPeter (Pete) Thomas KingLawmakers offer bill to boost Alzheimer's funding Hillicon Valley: Facebook unveils new cryptocurrency | Waters wants company to halt plans | Democrats look to force votes on election security | Advertisers partner with tech giants on 'digital safety' | House GOP unveils cyber agenda House Homeland Security Republicans to introduce slew of cybersecurity bills MORE, a fellow New York Republican, recognized Grimm, who lives in Staten Island.

When King was asked what Grimm was doing back in the House, King replied: “None of us ever know what he’s doing.”

Had Grimm asked for King’s support as a member of the New York delegation, a reporter asked.

King suggested Grimm would not ask that of him. “We know him too well,” King said.

Collins said he had spoken to Grimm Wednesday and called him a “good friend.”

“We want to get that seat back. He’s very well respected,” Collins said. “At this point, if he’s doing his due diligence, before he would jump in, he would make sure the support was there.”

Collins, who won reelection last year despite being charged by the Justice Department with insider trading, predicted that Grimm could win his old seat back, despite Grimm’s criminal conviction. A third Republican, Rep. Duncan HunterDuncan Duane HunterGOP moves to block provision banning use of Defense funds for border wall The Hill's Morning Report — US strikes approved against Iran pulled back Darrell Issa eyes return to Congress MORE of California, was indicted last year for misusing campaign funds.

Grimm “was reelected [in 2014] after a lot of that,” Collins said. “All politics is local. Right now that should be a Staten Island resident [serving] there.”

Democrats jabbed at McCarthy for taking the meeting with Grimm.

“Best of luck to GOP Leader McCarthy as he works overtime to recruit the classiest of convicted felons to run with the NRCC’s backing in 2020,” said Cole Leiter, a spokesman for the Democrats’ campaign operation.

Juliegrace Brufke contributed.