Will de Blasio be deferring questions pertaining to the ever-growing Federal corruption probe to his white-collar criminal defense lawyer? Following in the footsteps of Department of Investigation commish Mark Peters, who caved to public pressure and common sense and recused himself from the City’s participation in the probe, the mayor has changed his tone – yet again. He’s gone from “knowing nothing about” the Federal investigation, to “reaching out to help” the investigation, to now neither confirming nor denying anything at all about the investigation.
All signs point to the validity of the rumors we’ve been hearing regarding imminent arrests.
Mayor Bill de Blasio is no longer saying he has not been contacted by the office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in relation to two ongoing probes that touch on his administration and campaign donors.
When asked at a press conference last week, and again in a pre-taped NBC interview, the mayor said he had not heard from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“We haven’t been contacted in any way, shape or form by any federal agency,” he said in an interview on NBC’s Ask the Mayor that aired Sunday.
Last Wednesday, he told reporters he had retained a campaign lawyer to proactively reach out to Bharara’s office but at that point had heard nothing but a perfunctory response.
“To this hour, we still have not heard from any federal agency,” he said at that news conference.
He said Barry Berke, who briefly served as his campaign treasurer in 2014 after the election, had called Bharara’s office to “offer any assistance we could provide and let them know we’re happy to work with them in any way that would be helpful.”
The office simply acknowledged the call, he added.
But de Blasio declined to give a similar accounting at a press conference on Monday.
“I’m not going to get into the details day by day,” he told reporters following an unrelated press conference. “The bottom line here is we hold ourselves to very high ethical standards.”
Asked after the press conference, de Blasio’s spokeswoman did not say whether or not he was contacted by Bharara’s office and Berke did not respond to requests for comment.
Bharara is looking into corruption involving the NYPD and at least two campaign contributors to the mayor. He is also scrutinizing a land use deal that was approved by de Blasio’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services that allows a former nursing home to become a luxury condo building. The mayor has said he was unaware of that deal until it was reported in the Wall Street Journal last month.
The U.S. attorney on Monday arrested one person in connection with the wide-ranging NYPD probe.
Alex “Shaya” Lichtenstein was charged with bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery. According to a 10-page indictment, Lichtenstein, a member of a volunteer Orthodox security force known as Shomrim, is on tape offering cash to a police officer in exchange for gun permits.
Three members of the NYPD License Division have been moved and five officers were reassigned last week in the ongoing probe, which reportedly relates to at least two of de Blasio’s campaign contributors—Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg. Those two have not been charged.
The mayor also said on Monday it was “the right decision” for Department of Investigation commissioner Mark Peters, de Blasio’s former campaign treasurer, to recuse himself from these matters. That announcement came Friday, after Peters was criticized for initially saying he would oversee these investigations.