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Vince Gray is back, and he knows who owes him an apology. On the list: councilmembers who asked him to resign, some reporters, and former U.S. Attorney Ron Machen.
“I would say you owe me an apology, Mr. Machen,” Gray said this morning on Fox 5’s Good Day D.C., in his first televised interview since prosecutors closed the investigation into his 2010 campaign.
Gray blamed Machen’s March 2014 unveiling of a guilty plea from shadow campaign financier Jeff Thompson weeks ahead of the Democratic primary for his loss to Muriel Bowser.
“I think it froze people,” Gray said. “I think people didn’t know what to do.”
Gray says he’s considering his legal options related to the case. He also wants the D.C. Bar to explain what happened to a complaint filed against Machen over his handling of Thompson’s guilty plea.
With Gray’s media tour today headed to WAMU next, a spokesman for Machen declined to comment on the call for an apology. (Update: Machen responds below).
Gray says he hasn’t decided about a potential run for the D.C. Council next year—although he noted that he’d be eligible for the at-large race or the Ward 7 seat.
Gray says he hasn’t received apologies from the three councilmembers—Bowser, Mary Cheh, and David Catania—who called for his resignation. Gray noted that Bowser and Catania went on to run for mayor.
“Bowser’s just pure political,” Gray said.
Update, 3:30 p.m.: It doesn’t sound like Gray will be getting that apology any time soon. In a statement provided to LL, Machen says that he couldn’t “sweep [Thompson’s plea] under the rug.”
“Whether Thompson entered his plea before or after the primary election, there would have been criticism of the timing and speculation about how it might have affected the election,” Machen says.
See Machen’s full response below:
“I understand that Mr. Gray and his allies are upset because they believe that this investigation harmed his chances for reelection. However, for the prosecutors, agents, and much of the broader public, this case was about far more than Mr. Gray. It was about exposing and putting an end to a decade-long scheme that funneled millions of dollars of illegal cash into D.C. politics, election after election. A dozen people pled guilty as a result of the hard work of the prosecutors and agents who conducted this wide-ranging investigation, including six friends or associates of Mayor Gray who pled guilty to felonies because of what they did to get him elected. When Jeff Thompson came forward and revealed a massive scheme to corrupt D.C. politics, the office could not just sweep that under the rug. Whether Thompson entered his plea before or after the primary election, there would have been criticism of the timing and speculation about how it might have affected the election. Prosecutors have to focus on the facts and the law without fear of political fallout. That is why we sought to take that plea as soon as possible after the signing of the plea agreement. If any of the cooperating defendants who pled guilty were less than candid with the court about their admissions under penalty of perjury, we were not aware of that at the time and the prosecutors can now seek consequences for that lack of candor at sentencing. The bottom line is that the prosecutors and investigators on this case pursued justice to the best of their ability at every step of the way based on the facts and circumstances known at the time.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery