President Trump’s pardon power was used to impeach a witness at the NYPD bribery trial Thursday.
The pardon issue came up when a defense lawyer asked the government’s key witness, de Blasio donor Jona Rechnitz, about his “politically connected” father’s support of Trump — followed up by a question about whether Rechnitz was planning to seek such a reprieve from the Commander in Chief.
The comment caused an uproar, including objections from prosecutors, who called it “outrageously prejudicial” and demanded that it be stricken from the record.
But defense lawyer John Meringolo argued that it was a legitimate question because Rechnitz’s dad had attended a Trump fundraiser in 2016 — and was caught on wiretap telling his son they would “just go down to Washington” to fix Rechnitz’s legal woes.
“They have a relationship in real estate,” Meringolo told the judge about Rechnitz and Trump. “They have a long-standing relationship.”
Prosecutor Martin Bell argued that the conversation about going to Washington occurred before Trump was President, and slammed questions identifying political affiliations as unfairly prejudicial.
But the judge declined to strike it, or Rechnitz’s “no” answer.
Rechnitz is the government’s key witness in a case alleging far-reaching bribery at the NYPD and has testified that he teamed up with Borough Park police liaison Jeremy Reichberg to shower cops with lavish gifts in exchange for perks including parking placards.
Meringolo represents Reichberg’s co-defendant, ex-NYPD Deputy Inspector James Grant, who stands accused of providing police escorts and helping the men get gun permits in exchange for gifts including a trip to Las Vegas on a private plane with a hooker on board.
Other cops who received lavish gifts include ex-Chief of Department Philip Banks, who has not been charged, and Banks’ former right-hand man Michael Harrington, who pleaded guilty to misusing police resources to benefit Reichberg, including a police boat.
On Thursday, the captain of the police boat took the stand and said he was given orders to dock his vessel in Brooklyn’s Gowanus Bay “for a VIP” who was hosting a party nearby.
The “VIP” was Reichberg, who the Chartier kept referring to as “the rabbi,” because Reichberg and his “entourage” introduced him as such.
“He seemed to be the man running the show,” Chartier said of Reichberg.
Chartier gave the party-goers three or four boat rides to various tourist destinations, including the Statue of Liberty and downtown Manhattan, he said.
Rechnitz on Thursday also revealed that ex- Chief Banks may have played a role in a private dispute between two sparring diamond dealers.
It’s unclear if Banks knew he was helping out with the dispute, but Rechnitz testified that Banks let him store a bag of diamonds in his office safe that were given to Rechnitz by his diamond-dealer friend Yaron Turgemon due to a dispute Turgemon was having with Lev Leviev, known as the “King of Diamonds.”
Rechnitz also rehashed an embarrassing episode about how he tried — and failed — to arrange a meeting between de Blasio and the Israel Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu in 2014.
“What happened was I tried to arrange a meeting and the Prime Minister subbed him,” Rechnitz told the jury. “Bill de Blasio came down to the hotel for the meeting and the Prime Minister said it wasn’t on his official calendar and he would meet him another time.”