De Blasio Doubles Down Against Former Donor Jona Rechnitz’s Pay-To-Play Claims

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — For the second time this weekend – and with nine days to go for the election – Mayor Bill de Blasio doubled down Sunday on his claims that a donor is lying about a pay-to-play scheme.

As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, the mayor defended himself again after testimony by one of his biggest campaign donors – real estate developer Jona Rechnitz.

“He’s a criminal, guys. I don’t understand what your problem is,” de Blasio said. “The federal government looked at this in excruciating detail. But you somehow want to elevate a criminal to the front pages as having equal validity to federal prosecutors.”

Rechnitz will be back on the stand Monday. As one of the prosecutor’s star witnesses in former correction officers’ union boss Norman Seabrook’s bribery trial, Rechnitz testified that he helped quash a conflict the mayor had with Seabrook -– sending him an email saying, “Norman under control.”

“He was not that important to me, so if he sent me an email I don’t know if I even saw it,” de Blasio said. “I don’t recall seeing it.”

Despite de Blasio’s denial of a friendship, Rechnitz claimed he spoke with the mayor once a week, and claimed the mayor called him personally – asking him for a $100,000 donation.

On Sunday, de Blasio did not deny he made that call.

“I don’t remember what I asked someone specifically when I asked them. Way too much has happened. and plus, there was the vast majority of my work – which is what I do every day as mayor,” de Blasio said. “So it’s very normal for me not to remember a specific conversation.”

While taking off-topic questions at a news conference regarding upgrades to the Rockaways on the fifth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, it was clear that the mayor would prefer to forget being under fire for alleged misconduct within his administration.

But the Rechnitz effect has launched a new line of inquiry from reporters that the mayor is not happy about.

“I’m offering them a chance to ask a few more questions,” de Blasio said. “Let’s bear with them a few more times, and then the rest of New York city will go back to caring about real things.”

De Blasio was investigated by both the U.S. attorney and the Manhattan district attorney. No criminal charges were filed, even as one said the mayor acted on behalf of donors seeking favors and the other said his practices appeared to violate the “intent and spirit” of the law.

De Blasio said he is not concerned that Rechnitz’s testimony could spark a new federal investigation.

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