House Ethics Committee launches probe into Cuellar following indictment

The House Ethics Committee on Wednesday said it has launched an investigation into Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) after he and his wife were indicted on allegations that they accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and laundered the money.

Reps. Michael Guest (R-Miss.) and Susan Wild (D-Pa.), the chair and ranking member of the Ethics Committee, respectively, said the panel unanimously voted to establish an investigative subcommittee to look into 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.”

The news comes nearly a month after the Department of Justice charged Cuellar and his wife, Imelda, with bribery, money laundering and foreign influence peddling. They pleaded not guilty to the 14-count federal indictment, were released after posting a $100,000 bond, and have denied any wrongdoing.

Authorities have accused Cuellar of accepting roughly $600,000 in bribes from an oil and gas company owned and controlled by the Azerbaijan government and a bank headquartered in Mexico City. In exchange, they say the Cuellar agreed to use his office to influence U.S. policy in favor of Azerbaijan and to push for beneficial measures for the bank.

Guest and Wild said 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.”

In a Wednesday statement, Cuellar said, “I respect the work of the House Ethics Committee.”

“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,” he added.

Cuellar stepped down from his post as the ranking member of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee following his indictment.

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