Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar Being Investigated By The House Ethics Committee

( – Senator Bob Menendez’s (R-NJ) bribery trial recently began. He stands accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, obstructing the case against him, and acting as an unregistered foreign agent. While his trial is underway, another Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Henry Cuellar (TX), has also been indicted on similar charges. The House Ethics Committee is now investigating him.

The Charges Against Cuellar

On Friday, May 3, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Public Affairs unsealed an indictment against Cuellar. He, along with his wife, Imelda Cuellar, stands accused of “participating in two schemes involving bribery, unlawful foreign influence, and money laundering.”

The DOJ alleges that, dating back to at least December 2014, the Cuellars accepted around $600,000 in bribes from a Mexico bank and an Azerbaijan oil and gas company. The money was allegedly laundered through middlemen and front companies into shell companies owned by Mrs. Cuellar under the guise of sham contracts, where little to no work was carried out for the money.

In return, Rep. Cuellar reportedly agreed, in his capacity as a US lawmaker, to influence US foreign policy in Azerbaijan’s favor and “influence legislative activity and to advise and pressure high-ranking US Executive Branch officials regarding measures beneficial to the [Mexican] bank.”

Both Cuellar and his wife have been charged with 14 counts total, including aiding and abetting, money laundering, conspiracy to commit money laundering, honest services wire fraud conspiracy, conspiracy, bribery, and public official acting as an agent of a foreign principal. Now, the House has opened an ethics investigation, too.

House Ethics Committee Investigation

In a joint statement on Wednesday, May 29, House Ethics Committee Chairman Michael Guest (R-MS) and Ranking Member Susan Wild (D-PA) said the committee voted unanimously to open a probe to “determine whether Rep. Cuellar solicited or accepted bribes, gratuities, or improper gifts.”

Such an investigation is typical protocol. If a lawmaker is indicted, the ethics committee in the respective chamber has 30 days to determine whether to open an investigation — which is run by a subcommittee — or provide reasons for not doing so.

Cuellar released his own statement, saying he “respect[s] the work of the House Ethics Committee” and noted that he is “innocent of these allegations.” He says all of his work in Congress “has been to serve the people of South Texas.”

The subcommittee will be chaired by Guest. Rep. Glenn Ivey (D-MD) will serve as its ranking member, and Reps. Madeleine Dean (D-PA) and Ben Cline (R-VA) will round out its members.

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