In interview, Gray maintains his innocence, questions timing of plea agreement


“These are lies,” D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray said of allegations that he knew about the 2010 “shadow campaign,” which D.C. businessman Jeffrey E. Thompson admitted to funding. (Marlon Correa/The Washington Post)

After a dramatic, hours-long court hearing in which prosecutors accused D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) of knowing about Jeffrey E. Thompson’s “shadow campaign,” which helped Gray win election in 2010, the mayor sat down with a Washington Post reporter and defiantly declared the narrative to be “lies.” Following is more from that interview, edited for clarity:

Q: What is your response to the allegations that you knew about the “shadow campaign” conducted on your behalf and even that you requested some of those funds?

A: It’s shocking to me. Lies. These are lies.

If they are lies, Thompson would have to be whole-cloth making things up?

He had plenty of time to think about this. You know, I’ve said, we gave them all the e-mails that were associated with what they asked for, and I’ve never seen the e-mails. I’m convinced that there was certainly nothing in there involving me, nothing I’m connected with.

Did you ever meet with Jeffrey Thompson face to face?

Yes, and I’ve said that many times.

Did you ever ask him for money to get out the vote?

No. My interactions with Jeff Thompson were around him — like I asked many people to raise money for my campaign — legitimately.

Go out, raise money, contribute, support me?

Yeah. Initially, he said no — initially, he said no. And he came back and said, “You know” — because I think he was raising money for Fenty during that campaign also. My sense was that he didn’t want it to be known that he was raising money for me because of fear of retribution.

Is that where “Uncle Earl” came from?

Yeah, that’s where the Uncle Earl thing came from, that’s true. That part is true, he asked me to refer to him as Uncle Earl.

But that was so Fenty wouldn’t know?

That was my impression — that it wouldn’t be public that he was raising money for my campaign.

What about some of the new allegations we heard today? Prosecutors say that at your request, Thompson gave $10,000 to fund an unnamed union election campaign.

I don’t know anything about that.

Prosecutors say Thompson gave $40,000 to a close friend of yours to finance home improvements.

Are you kidding? Come on. You know, whose home was it? . . . I have never asked for $40,000 for my own home, let alone somebody else’s.

But the biggest thing is that you were aware that he was spending money that was not being reported. True?

I’ve addressed that now for what, three years? My story’s the same. My answers are the same. They are not changing.

Do you think the prosecutor has tainted your reelection campaign?

I think it certainly doesn’t help. You wonder about the timing of something like this. I mean, I have no idea. I can’t speak for them. I mean, I have a job to do, and they have a job to do; I assume they are trying to do it.

The prosecutor has already said that the election was basically stolen.

Do you realize how many votes separated me and my opponent, Fenty? Like 10,000 votes. You think that was influenced? . . . You think someone can prove that? Surely you can’t think that. It’s ridiculous. I was ahead the whole time, even before I got in the race. I wasn’t behind at any point; you can check your newspaper and see that.

What do you tell voters, someone leaning on the fence right now, in light of everything that’s been said today?

The only thing I can tell people is what has been and continues to be the truth for me, and you know what that is. I don’t need to repeat that for the 933rd time.

So, lies? Entirely?

That’s what I said. That’s what I said.

What’s Thompson’s motivation?

Given all the stuff that was in that document that came out earlier today, and you get what? Six months? I don’t make those decisions, but you can speculate as well as I can about what that looks like.

What’s one thing you want next to your name in the paper tomorrow when it says “Mayor Gray”?

I maintain my innocence in this. You saw me downstairs earlier today; I thought this was going to be over with as of today. Obviously it’s not.

What do you do next — continue with the campaign?

Keep doing what I’m doing. I can’t sit here and do this [wrings hands]. I can’t do that. When I wake up in the morning, I look in the mirror just like you do, and I see someone I respect. This evening, tomorrow morning, I’ll see somebody I respect.

Lastly, the Chartered settlement? (Prosecutors have explored whether a quid pro quo existed for Thompson’s efforts to elect Gray. Prosecutors said Monday that Thompson acknowledged asking an associate of Gray’s to have the mayor “expedite” a controversial $7 million settlement with Thompson’s now-defunct D.C. Chartered Health Plan.)

I never recall Jeanne Clark Harris talking to me about any Chartered settlement. And putting that aside for a minute, what if she had? Is that illegal? The question that ought to be asked is, was there anything that was illegal that was done in terms of the settlement itself?

I talked to the attorney general — there was a meeting right in there, right in that conference room, with [D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan and Department of Health Care Finance Director Wayne Turnage], and when they presented it to me, I said, “Are you guys sure about this?” Wayne said, “Yeah, I’m absolutely sure.” . . . And Irv had four or five attorneys who had been working on this. Even the previous administration had acknowledged some legitimacy to the claim.

Have you had any new contact with the U.S. attorney?

I haven’t.

Aaron C. Davis

Aaron Davis covers D.C. government and politics for The Post and wants to hear your story about how D.C. works — or how it doesn’t.
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