House Ethics Committee investigating indicted Rep. Henry Cuellar

Washington — The House Ethics Committee said Wednesday it will conduct its own investigation into Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas following his recent indictment on federal bribery charges

The committee said it unanimously voted to establish a subcommittee to investigate whether Cuellar “solicited or accepted bribes, gratuities, or improper gifts; acted as a foreign agent; violated federal money laundering laws; misused his official position for private gain; and/or made false statements or omissions on public disclosure statements filed with the House.” 

Cuellar and his wife were indicted earlier this month on more than a dozen charges that allege they accepted nearly $600,000 in bribes from an Azerbaijani energy company and a bank in Mexico. In exchange for the bribes, Cuellar agreed to advance the interests of Azerbaijan and the bank, prosecutors alleged. 

The congressman and his wife have pleaded not guilty. 

“I respect the work of the House Ethics Committee,” Cuellar said in a statement Wednesday. “As I said on May 3rd, I am innocent of these allegations, and everything I have done in Congress has been to serve the people of South Texas.”

An aide to Cuellar and a political and business consultant pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiring to help the congressman launder more than $200,000 in bribes. They agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department’s investigation into Cuellar and his wife. 

In a statement shortly before the indictment was unsealed, Cuellar said before taking any action he “proactively sought legal advice from the House Ethics Committee.” The committee gave him “more than one written opinion, along with an additional opinion from a national law firm,” he said. The statement did not specify the actions. 

The Ethics committee said it’s “aware of the risks associated with dual investigations” and is in communication with the Justice Department “to mitigate the potential risks while still meeting the Committee’s obligations to safeguard the integrity of the House.” 

Cuellar is up for reelection in the fall, facing Republican Jay Furman, who won a runoff on Tuesday night. 

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