New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D.) on Saturday called Jona Rechnitz, a former campaign contributor who said he bought access to City Hall through donations, a "liar."
De Blasio said he can not recall any details of any association with Rechnitz and refused to provide an account of their past meetings, phone calls and contacts, the New York Times reported.
Rechnitz’s incriminating testimony this past week came at an inconvenient time for the mayor: less than two weeks before the Nov. 7 elections where he is seeking second term reelection. Up until this point, de Blasio has had a commanding lead in the polls and has been favored for reelection.
Although the witness began his testimony in a government case against former head of the correction officers’ union Norman Seabrook, much of his testimony ended up revealing details of his relationship with de Blasio.
Rechnitz pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, and as part of plea deal, has since been cooperating with federal prosecutors. That includes cooperating in related corruption investigations involving the New York City Police Department and Mayor's Office.
Rechnitz told prosecutors he and the then-mayoral hopeful were friends and spoke on the phone at least once a week during de Blasio’s campaign for mayor in 2013. He also admitted to donating money directly to de Blasio’s campaign, and donating additional funds to a nonprofit started by de Blasio that aimed to get Democrats elected to State Senates.
In exchange for money donated, Rechnitz said he gained access to the mayor and was able to ask for favors. The major disagreed with Rechnitz's account
"You heard a lot of tales the last few days," de Blasio said on Saturday at a news conference in response to Rechnitz’s testimony. "Jona Rechnitz has had his turn. Now it’s my turn to tell you the truth. Jona Rechnitz is a liar and a felon. It’s as simple as that."
De Blasio said he met with Rechnitz after he won the Democratic primary in 2013, and the businessman began donating to the candidate's campaign. The mayor was vague, however, about the details of the meeting and claimed not to remember important interactions that came forward in Rechnitz’s testimony.
"I remember a handful of times being in person with him and I remember a handful of times on the phone," the mayor said. "I really can’t give you an exact number, but nothing like once a week."
De Blasio said Rechnitz is "a horrible human being" and was "not someone that I ever knew well or was close to."
"He is exaggerating in many, many ways," de Blasio said.
Rechnitz testified that he had a close relationship with a fundraiser for de Blasio’s campaign, Ross Offinger, and that Offinger arranged for de Blasio to visit Rechnitz’s office in the early stages of their relationship. It was there that Rechnitz was given de Blasio’s personal email address and cellphone number.
"I don’t remember the details but I can remember the broad strokes," de Blasio said. "At some point, I think it was Ross, said, ‘Here’s someone who says they want to help us,’ and then it proceeded from there. But I don’t remember the details."
De Blasio denied giving any special treatment to donors.
"The fact that a convicted felon is now trying to besmirch me; no one’s going to fall for that," de Blasio said on Saturday.
De Blasio nonetheless refused to provide a full account of his contacts with Rechnitz.
"You always want everything and I’m not going to give it to you," he said.