House Ethics Panel Will Investigate Cuellar on Bribery Charges

The House Ethics Committee has launched an investigation into Representative Henry Cuellar, Democrat of Texas, over allegations that he accepted bribes and committed misconduct in office, the panel said on Wednesday.

Mr. Cuellar was indicted this month on federal charges that he participated in a yearslong, $600,000 bribery scheme involving Azerbaijan and a Mexican bank. After a member is charged criminally, House rules require that the Ethics Committee decide whether Congress should also investigate the lawmaker’s conduct.

The panel voted unanimously to establish a four-member investigative subcommittee to determine whether Mr. 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.”

Representative Michael Guest, Republican of Mississippi and the chairman of the ethics panel, will also lead the subcommittee scrutinizing Mr. Cuellar’s conduct. Representative Glenn F. Ivey of Maryland will be the top Democrat.

The Ethics Committee has often chosen to halt its investigative work while federal prosecutors pursue a member of Congress, to avoid getting in the way of the Justice Department’s work. But recently it has adopted a more aggressive stance.

After the panel released a scathing report digging into the conduct of George Santos, a serial fabulist who at the time was representing New York as a Republican, the House voted to expel him.

The Ethics 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,” the panel said in a statement about Mr. Cuellar.

Federal prosecutors have accused Mr. Cuellar, 68, and his wife Imelda, 67, of bribery and money laundering in connection with their efforts on behalf of an oil and gas company owned by Azerbaijan’s leaders, as well as an unnamed bank based in Mexico City. Mr. Cuellar is also accused of acting as an agent of a foreign entity while a U.S. government official.

A representative for Mr. Cuellar did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Ethics Committee’s investigation.

Mr. Cuellar has denied the charges in the federal indictment, refused to resign and vowed to run again and win re-election. In a statement on Wednesday evening, he declared his innocence.

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

A native of Laredo, Texas, he has served in the House since 2005 and amassed considerable power in his district and on Capitol Hill, where he has established a record as a center-leaning Democrat willing to break with his own party, including by being the lone Democratic opponent of abortion rights in the House.

On Tuesday night, Jay Furman, a retired Navy officer, won the Republican nomination to challenge Mr. Cuellar in November. The district has grown more competitive in recent years, and Mr. Furman has said he plans to highlight the corruption charges against Mr. Cuellar in the race.

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