Wednesday, March 01, 2017
Mayor de Blasio repeatedly deflected questions Tuesday about his more than four-hour grilling last week by federal prosecutors reviewing his campaign financing.
"There is an investigation going on and I want to respect that. I have nothing more to say," he said about the "voluntary" sit-down with the feds on Friday. "It was a fine conversation."
Asked about his plans to form a legal defense fund to cover his mounting expenses, Hizzoner said, "It takes real resources to cover legal bills. Like I said many times, I'm not a millionaire or a billionaire. We'll figure out a plan."
De Blasio also danced around questions about the firing of a top city official who approved the 2015 sale of a Lower East Side nursing home to a condo developer – just hours before the mayor was questioned.
Ricardo Morales, deputy commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, OK'd the removal of a deed restriction on Rivington House, allowing it to be sold and converted into a luxury condo.
De Blasio said he did not want to get into specifics, calling the move a "personnel decision" that involved the deputy mayor and DCAS.
"I believe they thought they needed someone better to do that job," he said.
"Not a single thing has changed my view about how we've handled this – appropriately, ethically and within the law," he said about the yearlong probe. "I'm comfortable that things were handled the right way."
The feds have been probing him over whether he and his advisers exchanged favors to donors for contributions to his 2013 campaign and his now-shuttered nonprofit, the Campaign for One New York.
De Blasio raised $4.3 million for CONY, which promoted his political pet projects, including from several individuals and firms with business interests before the city.
On Monday, he admitted that he has a long history of doing favors for community members who need help with city business — but claimed it's kosher because he "never pressures" his department heads.
The mayor has neither confirmed nor denied media reports that he helped Brooklyn Rabbi Moishe Indig, who raised money for him, in getting the Buildings Department in 2014 to lift a partial vacate order at a Hasidic school.
De Blasio also has denied allegations by John Ciafone — husband of production company Broadway Stages owner Gina Argento — that his wife was pressured into delivering donations to his 2013 mayoral campaign and to CONY.
On Friday, at least four assistant US attorneys from Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara's office grilled de Blasio for more than four hours at the Midtown office of his lawyer, Barry Berke.
City Hall Press Secretary Eric Phillips has said the mayor attended the long-awaited sit-down "voluntarily."
"We remain confident that at all times the mayor and his staff acted appropriately and well within the law," he said in a statement.
De Blasio also is under separate probe by Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. over fund-raising tied to a failed attempt to win Democratic control of the state Senate in 2014. He was questioned by the DA's Office in late December.
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