Six members withdraw from Waters probe
February 17th, 2012
07:20 PM ET
11 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. Radgast

    outdated overkill

    February 17, 2012 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  2. Namejkane fl

    Probably because they are just as crooked as the one they are investagating.

    February 17, 2012 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  3. DENNA

    Hmm. I wonder what is really going on here? Some butt covering going on?

    February 17, 2012 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  4. judy

    must be repos running for reelection . don't want to screw their chances

    February 17, 2012 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  5. sittingduck

    The last time I saw Billy Martin he was in his Twins uniform drunk and fighting in a Minneapolis bar. He won.

    February 17, 2012 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  6. 9corona

    At which point do we realize these elected up-standing citizens can not police themselves.....

    February 17, 2012 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  7. N&W 1000

    Maxine, as a black female, should get a free pass here.

    February 17, 2012 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  8. BerlinBear

    You mean that this is/has been going on now for what over 3 years, and how many thousands of tax dollars and now you will start over. When the sun sets and the person is guilty what will be the return? If the person is not guilty what damage his this done to this person. Yes you are correct I don't have a horse in this race except for my tax dollars that up to this point in this witch hunt have been wasted!

    February 17, 2012 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  9. Ed Fl

    I will bet that Waters has more bad info on all the GOP er's that are afraid to go after her. Lets face it when these politicians are away from home and in DC where they think they are untoucable. While the cats away the mice will play and Waters has as much wierdo stuff against these politicians and she also has GOOD old Charlie Rangel to guide her through this hearing. Many GOP heads will roll this upcoming election.

    February 17, 2012 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  10. steven harnack

    Perhaps they ALL have interests in banks that got federal money?

    February 17, 2012 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  11. gary

    Can you say "witch hunt"?

    February 17, 2012 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  12. MaryAnn62

    This probe has always been a witch hunt. Ms Waters is innocent of these charges and spending thousands of tax payer dollars on this is the real crime.

    February 17, 2012 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  13. Ramrod

    What is the big deal about arranging a meeting? It is a meeting. Her husban lived in her district; another citizen to represent. John McCain and others have arranged meetings many, many times. Or did we forget the Keathing 5?
    Dick Chaney brought his buddies in to write the energy bill. Oh, I remember now, they were all whites.

    February 17, 2012 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  14. Cindy

    If they cannot find anything in 2 1/2 years they should drop the investigation. Republicans, stop wasting taxpayer money. It is that simple.

    February 17, 2012 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  15. kingwassabi

    Nothing wrong here. LMAO!!

    February 17, 2012 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  16. Terry

    Wow, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Once again I ask, will the one honest member of the House or Senate please turn out the lights? Just as I thought. Let corruption shine.

    February 17, 2012 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  17. ken

    The penalty for political corruption should be death by lethal injection!

    February 17, 2012 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  18. Marine1957

    Aren't there enough members of Congress with enough guts to indict and convict representative Waters' criminal behavior?

    February 17, 2012 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  19. My name is Jose Jimenez

    Waste of tax payer's money. This investigation should have been concluded long ago.

    February 17, 2012 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  20. My name is Jose Jimenez

    Another example of an inept Congress.

    February 17, 2012 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  21. Sanity

    In other words, the Democrat slander machine is running because Waters has no other defense..

    February 17, 2012 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  22. rita faye morris mceeman

    Ethic comitty/ water / alsaka glasheres /and southpole water /

    February 17, 2012 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  23. James B

    There is no case. Republicans will keep this going as long as possible and by any means possible. If there were a case, the evidence against Rep. Waters would have been presented. This is simply a delay tactic and one that epitomizes everything wrong with Washington DC (with Republicans in charge).

    I hope that Rep. Waters fights this in her usual tough manner. We have your back. In a few months, Republicans will be history and so will this case. Hang in there.

    February 17, 2012 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  24. K3Citizen

    Who are they fooling? They discovered that the ethics committee was unethical and they want to avoid extreme embarrassment so the GOP doesn't look any more hypocritical.

    February 17, 2012 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  25. David

    Maxine is the most racist and corrupt politician I know of. Its odd that she hasnt been booted out.

    February 17, 2012 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
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