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De Blasio Won't Use Taxpayer Money for His Legal Defense, He Says

By Jeff Mays | February 4, 2017 1:58pm | Updated on February 5, 2017 3:46pm
 Mayor Bill de Blasio said he's going to have to raise the money to pay the lawyers representing him in various federal and state probes around his fundraising efforts.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said he's going to have to raise the money to pay the lawyers representing him in various federal and state probes around his fundraising efforts.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

LONG ISLAND CITY—Mayor Bill de Blasio said he won't use taxpayer money to pay the lawyers representing him in various federal and state probes around his fundraising efforts — and will instead launch a fundraiser to raise the cash to pay them.

“All legal efforts on my behalf are not paid for by the taxpayer, as opposed to other city employees," de Blasio said about the $11.6 million in contracts the city handed out to several firms specializing in white collar crime to represent city employees in the probes.

►READ MORE: Here's What We Know About the Probe Into Mayor Bill de Blasio's Fundraising

Asked if his campaign was paying the tab, he said "not necessarily." De Blasio raised $1 million over the last six months and has $2.2 million in cash on hand in his campaign account. The mayor insinuated that he would have to raise the funds separately, such as through a legal defense fund.

"That’s money that will have to be raised. So that’s the reality, because I guess you didn’t know, I’m not a billionaire like my predecessor," the mayor added Friday during a question and answer session in Queensbridge Houses. "That all has to be put together and acted on. That's the reality. The bottom line is no public dollars are going into the legal work on my behalf."

The investigations into the mayor have been public for at least a year. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is investigating whether donors to de Blasio's now-defunct political nonprofit, the Campaign for One New York, received anything in return for their donations.

The nonprofit operated outside of city campaign finance rules and was able to accept unlimited amounts of money from firms and individuals who had business before the city. The City Council has since passed laws governing donations to such nonprofits.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. is investigating whether de Blasio's fundraising efforts to help elect a Democratic majority in the state senate violated campaign finance laws.

Grand juries are examining both cases. The mayor acknowledged last week that he and his lawyers met with attorneys from Vance's office.

► READ MORE: De Blasio Questioned by Manhattan District Attorney Amid Fundraising Probe

"The Manhattan DA's office asked for an interview and we did an interview," de Blasio told reporters.

The mayor also said he's meeting with Bharara.

"From the very beginning of those investigations, we sent a very simple message that we were ready to fully cooperate. My attorney proactively reached out to the U.S. Attorney and said we want to help in any way we can," said de Blasio.

But the mayor has been vague in answering questions from the press about certain aspects of the investigation.

Asked by WNYC host Brian Lehrer on his show Friday when the meeting with Bharara was to be held, de Blasio wouldn't be specific.

"It’s not next week, it’s in the next few weeks?" Lehrer asked.

"Yeah, I’m just saying broadly – it’s coming up in the next few weeks," said de Blasio.

The mayor also wouldn't say whether he has been granted any sort of immunity during his interviews with prosecutors.

►READ MORE: Taxpayers Spent $11.6 Million to Defend de Blasio in Fundraising Probes

"I'm not going to get into the tick-tock because I don't know all the tick-tock. The bottom line is there's going to be that cooperation," de Blasio added.

De Blasio campaign spokesman Dan Levitan declined to elaborate further.

But according to the mayor, who is running for re-election this year, members of the public don't have the same level of concern about the investigations as the media.

"The public is concerned about driving down crime, they are concerned about a better relationship between police and community, they're concerned about more and better job. They're concerned about better schools and everything else that has to do with day to day life,"the mayor added.

"It's been a year of you guys covering different investigations and we have said steadfastly we did everything the right way and we held to high ethical standards," he said.