New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio might easily win a second term, all thanks to the state and federal prosecutors clearing two separate year-long probes into his campaign fundraising practices.
Addressing the decision Thursday afternoon in City Hall, de Blasio repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, deflecting reporters’ questions by responding “the issue has been exhaustively investigated” and told reporters this would be the final time he would discuss this matter.
“It simply confirms what I’ve said all along and I was obviously pleased to see the issue closed,” de Blasio said in a combative news conference with reporters. “My staff, my colleagues and I have acted in a manner that was legal and appropriate and ethical throughout. What matters is the fact that this was extensively investigated for a year and no charges have been brought and this is the end of the matter.”
De Blasio has been the subject of multiple federal and state investigations since taking office in 2014. Federal investigations centered around the mayor’s pay-to-play scheme with donors who contributed to his 2013 mayoral election campaign, while the state focused on de Blasio’s fundraising operation of his unsuccessful efforts to help Democrats regain control of the State Senate in 2014, along with his 2013 now-defunct nonprofit campaign ‘Campaign for One New York.’
The surprise Thursday morning announcement from both federal and state prosecutors, issued just minutes apart, announced that neither would bring any criminal charges against the mayor or his aides.
In a statement released Thursday morning, acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim, said a “thorough investigation” was conducted regarding the mayor soliciting donations from those who sought political favors and found “difficulty in proving criminal intent in corruption schemes where there is no evidence of personal profit.”
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office announced its decision in a 10-page letter to the state Board of Election. The critical and detailed letter of the “extensive investigation” resulted in the conclusion not to bring charges since the mayor and his aides relied “on the advice of counsel.” However, Vance emphasized the lack of an indictment didn’t constitute “an endorsement of the conduct at issue.”
When questioned about Vance assessment that criticized his action, de Blasio said he doesn’t “share their assessment.”
“They have an assessment, I don’t share their assessment,” de Blasio responded. “They had to make a judgment on whether anything inappropriate happened and their judgment was it did not.”
The move to conclude de Blasio parallel criminal probes came just days after Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, was fired by President Trump. Bharara led the year-long investigation into the mayor fundraising after a lead investigator at the state Board of Elections asked prosecutors to investigate whether de Blasio broke the law by funneling campaign contributions to Democratic state Senate candidates through state committee groups to evade donation contribution limits.
Just last month, de Blasio met with Bharara voluntary for four hours regarding the probe. The meeting was considered to be the final step in determining whether or not charges would be brought.
Since the meeting with Bharara, de Blasio repeatedly refused to go into detail about what was discussed due to the matter being an active investigation. Now with the investigation closed, half the questions the mayor faced during Thursday press conference were about disclosing the details of the interview.
“What matters is the fact that this was extensively investigated for a year and no charges have been brought and this is the end of the matter,” de Blasio responded.
De Blasio refused to comment on whether it was a coincidence that Bharara was fired just days before the investigation was dropped and his personal feelings towards the former U.S. attorney.
“Again, I am not going to comment on [Bharara] at this moment,” de Blasio said. “Personally, I appreciate him and his office conducting a diligent investigation and made the determination on a timely basis.”
Regarding his pay-to-play scheme of donors calling him for a favor, de Blasio defended the issue, arguing that it is “normal” for him to receive concerns from any individual and approach the city agencies to “assess the situation.”
If anyone brings an issue to me, an elected official, community leader, a business person, an individual, we pass that to an agency to assess the situation to come up with a determination,” de Blasio said. “I think it is normal for an elected official to receive concerns from people and pass them along for an agency to assess. That’s how we have done things, that’s how we will continue to do things.”