Six members withdraw from Waters probe
February 17th, 2012
07:20 PM ET
3 years ago

Six members withdraw from Waters probe

Washington (CNN) - In an unusual move Friday, six members of the House Ethics Committee recused themselves from the investigation of Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, after outside counsel hired to review the case recommended they no longer participate in the probe.

A letter from Alabama Republican Jo Bonner read on the House floor requested that House Speaker John Boehner appoint six new members to continue the inquiry, effectively replacing himself, four additional Republicans, and one Democrat two and a half years into the investigation.

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"I am writing to request the appointment of six substitute members," said Bonner, a Republican congressman from Alabama.

The ethics committee hired outside counsel Billy Martin in July of 2011 to review the case after multiple reports of possible improper communication among committee attorneys and lawmakers on the panel.

After interviewing current and former Ethics Committee members and staff, as well as assessing "tens of thousands of pages of documents," Martin recommended that leadership and four sitting members recuse themselves from the inquiry.

Recusal recommendations were not expected to occur until Martin completed his review, but because "one necessary witness refused to appear voluntarily" and planned to exercise Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination when subpoenaed to testify, Martin was compelled to "advance that timing."

"The witness' refusal to answer questions prevents the completion of the due process review," Bonner said.

However, he noted that Martin had not discovered any evidence that indicated "actual bias or partiality," any "conflict which would cause disqualification," or anything that "should cause a mandatory recusal."

A source close to the investigation told CNN this kind of move was unprecedented.

Members stepping aside include Bonner, Texas Reps. Michael McCaul and Michael Conaway, Pennsylvania Rep. Charles Dent, and Rep. Gregg Harper of Mississippi-all Republican-as well as Democratic California Rep. Linda Sanchez, who served as ranking member on the bipartisan panel.

Bonner listed reasoning for the action saying, "The members requested recusal because 1) They believe that, out of an abundance of caution and to avoid even an appearance of unfairness, their voluntary recusal will eliminate the possibility of questions being raised as to the partiality or bias of committee members considering this manner; 2) They want to assure the public the House and Representative Waters that this investigation is continuing in a fair and unbiased manner; and 3) They want to move this matter forward in a manner that supports the greatest public confidence in the ultimate conclusions of the committee."

Democratic Reps. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, Donna Edwards of Maryland, Pedro Pierluisi from Puerto Rico, and Joe Courtney of Connecticut remain part of the investigation as ethics committee members.

In October 2009 the ethics committee unanimously voted to investigate whether Waters violated any House rules when she helped arrange a meeting in September 2008 between OneUnited, a minority-owned bank in which her husband had financial interest, and Treasury Department officials.

The bank was seeking federal assistance and Waters is a senior member of the House Financial Services committee.

Waters has asserted her innocence since the beginning of the probe. An ethics trial scheduled for November of 2010 was postponed. The following month Waters insisted that committee leadership "set the record straight" and examine media reports of misconduct on the part of two attorneys leading the case against her.

In July 2011 Waters sent a letter urging the recusal of all members of the ethics committee involved in the investigation.

Waters' office has not yet responded to a CNN request for comment on the recusals.

Following Martin's recommendation that "no member who served on the committee in the 111th Congress should serve as a substitute," Boehner named GOP Rep. Bob Goodlatte from Virginia to serve as acting chairman for the duration of the investigation. Fellow Republicans including Rep. Michael Simpson of Idaho, Ohio Rep. Steven LaTourette, West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, and Arkansas Rep. Tim Griffin were also named as substitutes. Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland replaces Sanchez, and Yarmuth will serve as acting ranking member for the duration of the investigation.

Though Bonner, Sanchez, McCaul, Conaway, Dent, and Harper have recused themselves from the Waters probe, the letter confirms they will continue to serve on the ethics committee for all other purposes, with Bonner serving as chairman and Sanchez as ranking member.

- Follow the CNN Capitol Hill team on Twitter @CapitolHillCNN.

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Filed under: Congress
soundoff (99 Responses)
  1. Alois

    Looks like more corruption in the deadbeat obama administration.It seems like every time these loser democrats get caught doing something wrong, almost every week,they run and hide because they know they are guilty of the offence .

    February 18, 2012 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  2. Jim

    Is it possible to acknowledge the witch hunt, and still insist upon burning the witch?

    February 18, 2012 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  3. 4F

    After wasting 2.5 years it is time to scrap this worthless investigation altogether. Maxine Waters is the biggest air head ever elected to office. It should have been an easy task to nail her butt to the wall.

    February 18, 2012 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  4. Catzie53

    If it smells and looks like a dead fish and it must be a dead fish! Something smells big time here!

    February 18, 2012 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  5. WiredweirdinSF

    Maxine is a more than normal over the top democrat liberal. She probably has take a clue from one of the corrupt union thug bosses like James Hoffa of the Teamsters and threatened to kill those who were investigating her. You must remember democrat liberals are owned and trained by union thugs and use the same tactics, that explains why the most incompetent, inept, corrupt, union toady president is colluding with a tax payer supported democrat liberal organization like Media Matters to destroy the Fox Network. If the media told the truth, Obama would be in jail not running for reelection.

    February 18, 2012 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  6. Richwood7

    Probably because they were guilty of the same crime. Why do we think the most corrupt legislative branch of a governenment in the world should be allowed to police itself????? The "Ethics" Committee should be replaced by a tax payers committee

    February 18, 2012 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  7. 2tor

    "...the ethics committee unanimously voted to investigate"

    Let's see how you libs kiddies spin this one.

    February 18, 2012 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  8. roman

    figgers, they're all guilty of,participation, aiding,profiting, and perjury, and they'll be completely exonerated in the eyes of their peers! once again justice is waived by the politicians for the politicians again excused from the laws we must obey,,, because we dont enjoy wealthy status, gotta hate this one sided leagel system of America

    February 18, 2012 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  9. diridi

    Instead of this nonsense, restrict IMMIGRATION, Send all the foreigners who have expired VISAS Home....simple truth. INS?USCIS Watch all the Foreingers without proper Visas. Including workers in NCBCBS insurnace idiots too....good luck.

    February 18, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  10. PeaceTV

    The only true patriotic 2012 Presidential candidate eager to serve 99% Americans (not corporate America): Ron Paul
    Only honest and decent Presidential candidate which lives, talks and walks like ordinary Americans!

    February 18, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  11. BuckStops There

    Because the congress can...set their pay....make their own rules....police themselves...spend 2 years on sham investigations...have rediculous retirement packages that they don't earn...have no healthcare worries...insert the other 99 insance perks here... and Americans can't seem to think outside their manufactured 2-party boxes.. This story is ABSOLUTELY IRRELEVENT!!!!

    February 18, 2012 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  12. PeaceTV

    The only true patriotic 2012 Presidential candidate eager to serve 99% Americans (not corporate America): Ron Paul
    Only honest and decent Presidential candidate which lives, talks and walks like ordinary Americans!
    Corporate media owned by war profiteers sensors and demonizes him for telling the common sense Truths!
    Other candidates live like corporate crooks and walk and talk like corporate crooks and are funded by fellow crooks!
    ONLY solution for the problems of 99% Americans: Ron Paul
    If you listen to Ron Paul's mass media censored videos on You Tube, you will owe it to yourself to vote for Ron Paul!

    February 18, 2012 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  13. Raul

    she is a democrat...guilty of course...corruption runs deep in that group.

    February 18, 2012 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  14. he said what

    Let me give you the three reasons they actually asked to be dismissed. 1)Defense lawyer found they were having secret meetings to discuss the matter. 2) These members were accepting bribes from potential witnesses 3) They were found to be in violation of house ethics.

    February 18, 2012 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  15. What-a-waste

    What a waste of tax-payer money. This is a witch-hunt. Leave Maxine Waters alone and get back to work!!

    February 18, 2012 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  16. Big Greg

    Now we need to form a committee to investigate the ethics of the ethics committee?
    Hard to believe that after 2.5 years, they have not achieved anything and are effectively starting over....

    February 18, 2012 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  17. Catnippy

    I guess they are adhering to the old saying about people who live in glass houses not throwing stones. Or maybe they are beginning to see how unpopular witch hunting has become with the general public. Weird picture, by the way–looks like the capitol building is seriously listing. Maybe that's just prophetic.

    February 18, 2012 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  18. Darth Cheney

    Two and a half years to see if she pulled a couple strings to help a small, minority-owned bank, and no trial of Dick Cheney for the untold billions in no-bid contracts where he had a blatant conflict of interest? When it comes to Washington, Wall Street, and the military-industrial complex, the bigger the misdeed, the smaller the consequences.

    February 18, 2012 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  19. chefdugan

    Forget who's on the committee, just get rid of this piece of trash.

    February 18, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  20. Thomas

    How much more will this cost the TAx payer.

    Do you have a case or not ? If so , prosecute and send her up the river . If not just let her be a half crazy Queen of LA.

    February 18, 2012 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  21. Jackson5

    Waters actions smell rotten – she needs to be investigated.

    February 18, 2012 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  22. leo maniace

    There will be plenty of noise, but once again another politician(organized crime member) will walk away without so much as a slap on the wrist. All our politicians are criminals.

    February 18, 2012 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  23. queenbee

    They are being asked to recuse themselves because they have actually BEEN caught fixing the case one way or another or making deals that influence the case and they either recuse themselves now or perhaps prompt an investigation into their own actions . This is similar to Gingrich going after Clinton while he , himself was having an affair–if he had recused himself, it might have lessened the amount of uproar and dirt that came out about his own actions both as Speaker and as a hypocritical, witch hunting cheating politician. When there is a recusal this deep into the process, the possibility of taint is already ESTABLISHED And too strong to now allow the recusal to matter. 4 years into an investigation? What lies and plants and "arrangements " that may be implied (if true) have already been established–the recusals now cast doubt on motive and ANY of the ultimate decisions or conclusions drawn and FOOL NOONE.

    February 18, 2012 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  24. queenbee

    When there is a recusal this deep into the process, the possibility of taint is already ESTABLISHED And too strong to now allow the recusal to matter. 4 years into an investigation? What lies and plants and "arrangements " that may be implied (if true) have already been established–the recusals now cast doubt on motive and ANY of the ultimate decisions or conclusions drawn and FOOL NOONE.

    February 18, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
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