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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

House Dem.’s Shocking Bribery Indictment Shifts Short-Term and Long-Term Dynamics

(Headline USA) Fears of Democrats taking over the House of Representatives ahead of the next congressional term may have waned slightly as one of the most politically vulnerable Democrats now faces serious criminal charges.

However, the indictment raises questions whether Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas—a sometime critic of the Biden administration’s open-border and abortion policies—may have become the latest victim of political persecution at the hands of the corrupt Justice Department as the Left seeks to run a more radical candidate in his district.

Cuellar and his wife were indicted on conspiracy and bribery charges Friday in connection with a DOJ probe into ties between American business leaders and the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.

From 2014 to 2021, Cuellar and his wife accepted nearly $600,000 in bribes from an Azerbaijan-controlled energy company and a bank in Mexico. In exchange, Cuellar agreed to advance the interests of the country and the bank in the U.S., according to the indictments.

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

The longtime congressman said he and his wife, Imelda Cuellar, “are innocent of these allegations” in a statement Friday that echoed a similar scandal surrounding Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.

“Everything I have done in Congress has been to serve the people of South Texas,” Cuellar said. “Before I 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.

“Furthermore, we requested a meeting with the Washington D.C. prosecutors to explain the facts and they refused to discuss the case with us or hear our side.”

Menendez stepped down from his position as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee following his and his wife’s indictment last December related to a DOJ probe of bribery tied to Egypt and Qatar. However, he ignored widespread bipartisan calls to resign from his Senate seat altogether.

It is unlikely given the narrow margin in the House and the hopes Democrats have of regaining the majority that current House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. will issue any such demands of Cuellar under the circumstances.

Nonetheless, there is likely to be tremendous pressure on the centrist lawmaker to drop his reelection bid.

Cuellar, one of the last pro-life Democrats in Congress, narrowly defeated progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros, his one-time intern, by fewer than 300 votes in a primary race in 2022.

Neither Cuellar nor his attorney immediately responded to calls seeking comment on the matter. Officials with the U.S. Department of Justice declined to discuss the matter.

Cuellar was at one time the co-chair of the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus.

The FBI searched the congressman’s house in the border city of Laredo in 2022, and Cuellar’s attorney at that time said Cuellar was not the target of that investigation.

That search was part of a broader investigation related to Azerbaijan that saw FBI agents serve a raft of subpoenas and conduct interviews in Washington, D.C., and Texas, a person with direct knowledge of the probe previously told The Associated Press. The person was not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Federal disclosures show that the nine-term congressman traveled to Azerbaijan in 2013. Two years later, Cuellar’s office announced an agreement between a Texas university and an organization called the Assembly of Friends of Azerbaijan for the purposes of collaborating on oil and gas research and education.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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