House Ethics Committee will investigate Rep. Henry Cuellar after his federal indictment

May 29, 2024, 12:10 PM | Updated: 12:38 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Ethics Committee is opening an investigation into Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, after his indictment earlier this month on allegations of bribery, money laundering and working on behalf of a foreign government.

The committee said Wednesday that it voted unanimously to take the rare step of pursuing an investigation into Cuellar, 68, while he and his wife remain under investigation by the Department of Justice over the couple’s ties to the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.

“The Committee is aware of the risks associated with dual investigations and is in communication with the Department of Justice to mitigate the potential risks while still meeting the Committee’s obligations to safeguard the integrity of the House,” said the chair, Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., and ranking member, Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa., said in a statement.

Cuellar, in a statement to The Associated Press, said he respects the committee’s work. He said he is “innocent of these allegations, and everything I have done in Congress has been to serve the people of South Texas.”

House and committee rules require that within 30 days of a member being indicted or formally charged, the committee shall either establish an investigative subcommittee to look into the allegations or publicly report its reasons for not doing so.

Guest and Rep. Glenn Ivy, D-Md., will lead the review of Cuellar. The committee cautioned in its statement that opening an investigation does not mean that the lawmaker has violated House rules.

Culler is the third lawmaker to face a federal indictment since the current congressional session began in January. He has said that he and his wife, Imelda Cuellar, 67, “are innocent of these allegations.”

In a statement in early May, Cuellar said that before he took action, “I proactively sought legal advice from the House Ethics Committee, who gave me more than one written opinion, along with an additional opinion from a national law firm.”

The indictment against the couple states that from 2014 to 2021, they accepted nearly $600,000 in bribes from an Azerbaijan-controlled energy company and a bank in Mexico, and in exchange, Cuellar agreed to advance the interests of the country and the bank in the United States.

Among other things, Cuellar agreed to influence legislation favorable to Azerbaijan and deliver a pro-Azerbaijan speech on the floor of the House, according to the indictment.

In addition to bribery and conspiracy, Cuellar and his wife face charges including wire fraud conspiracy, acting as agents of foreign principals and money laundering. If convicted, they face up to decades in prison and forfeiture of any property linked to proceeds from the alleged scheme.

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House Ethics Committee will investigate Rep. Henry Cuellar after his federal indictment