Whatever his failings, embattled Rep. Michael Grimm isn't bashful. The Staten Island Republican crashed a press conference held by House GOP leaders Thursday, according to House aides, and emerged touting his proximity to party leaders who've steered clear of him since his indictment last month. Grimm spokesman Nick Iacono said the congressman, a Marine Corps veteran, "was welcomed to attend" the news conference where House Republicans urged the Senate to take up a bill making it easier to fire officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
House Republicans held a press conference yesterday to talk about the VA scandal, and to create a better photo-op, GOP leaders spoke to reporters while surrounded by a group of lawmakers and veterans. But if you click this link, you might notice one unexpected figure in the image.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), of course, is in the middle, speaking on behalf of the party he helps lead, and just to his right is House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), another member of the party leadership. But standing right between them is ... Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.).
It seemed like an odd choice for the Republican leadership. On an important national issue, the party welcomed a congressman recently indicted on 20 federal criminal counts, including impeding the IRS, conspiracy to defraud the United States, perjury, filing false tax returns, mail fraud, wire fraud, and health care fraud?
As it turns out, no, the party didn't welcome him at all.
Oddly enough, though Grimm's office claims Republicans "welcomed" the scandal-plagued congressman, that's not quite how party officials see it. In fact, the New York Daily News talked to one staffer who explicitly said, Grimm "was not invited."
A second GOP staffer added Grimm "sort of photo-bombed" the event by unexpectedly standing directly behind the podium. Once he was there, "we couldn't stop him," the aide said.
For what it's worth, Grimm did not speak at the event. Neither Cantor's nor McMorris Rodgers' office would officially comment.
I have no inside information to substantiate one version of events or another, but I think it's easy to be skeptical of the claim that Grimm was "welcomed to attend" by his party. Grimm is a military veteran, but he's not on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, he's not a member of the leadership, and he's facing a variety of criminal charges, which usually cuts down on invitations to high-profile press events.
That said, if the congressman really did show up uninvited, working his way into the front row so he'd be in all the photos, that was a pretty audacious move.