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. briankt123

    What a tremendous waste of time and taxpayer's money. Not only is this a witch hunt, but tell me what politician doesn't pull some strings for personal interests. I'm not saying it's right, but this country has witnessed far worse political manipulation.

    February 18, 2012 05:26 am at 5:26 am |
  2. Bob Ramos

    With the exception of Sanchez, the five GOP members have finally realized that their own careers will be under the microscope and they do not want to undergo that. Do they? Maybe. But why do that for something all members have done at one time or another.

    February 18, 2012 06:03 am at 6:03 am |
  3. Sickofit

    Now we have to have an investigation of an investigation to find out if the first investigation is doing what it is supposed to be doing. Is it any wonder why we are so far in debt. These idiots we elected are worthless and are killing this country.

    February 18, 2012 06:37 am at 6:37 am |
  4. beel

    Maxine Waters – classiest woman in Congress

    February 18, 2012 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  5. Roger

    So 5 Republicans and 1 Democrat will sit in judgement of a Democrat. That's supposed to be "bipartisan"?

    And this is an ethics investigation. What a joke.

    February 18, 2012 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  6. Thomas

    Article posted twelve hours without a comment. May be a new record

    February 18, 2012 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  7. Sagebrush Shorty

    What a waste of time and money. Rep. Waters will play the race card and all will be well.

    February 18, 2012 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  8. leapingknome

    2 1/2 years of investigation to get to this? no wonder nothing ever gets done. the one thing that seems consistent CYA.

    February 18, 2012 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  9. George

    This investigation is just a political witch hunt anyway.

    February 18, 2012 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  10. Brian

    think they would take this long to find you guilty of obvious crimes. Waters is plague on our nation and a crook to boot

    February 18, 2012 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  11. mikey_t

    This is when "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" comes back to haunt a politician.

    February 18, 2012 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  12. mjbrin

    what does this mean?

    February 18, 2012 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  13. Moby49

    "Ethical congress" is an oxymoron. There is no such thing as an ethical congress. They are all crooks bought and paid for by the elite.

    February 18, 2012 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  14. dew

    there no way she should have a gov. job. this lady is on something.

    February 18, 2012 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  15. steve

    It's disheartening how congress works. What Maxine Waters did seems like an open and shut case, but these people drag out for months what should have been done long ago, get rid of Maxine Waters. The woman is a leech and continually lambasts anyone who gets in her way.

    February 18, 2012 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  16. Guest

    Over the past couple years Waters has lowered herself to namecalling. She shows great anger perhaps it's time for her to retire.

    February 18, 2012 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  17. u kiddingme

    Boehner and Cantor need to step down. They promised to reduce debt instead you find them at Holiday in Bed with you know who.

    BOEHNER / OBAMA 2012

    February 18, 2012 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  18. RickBangkok

    Could it be that the other members have been throwing stones at their own glass house? Or could it be that Rep Waters has been working in the Congress long enough to know where are the dirty laundry of the other members is? She can give as good as she gets. That is what I like about her.

    February 18, 2012 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  19. klamerus

    One of the more corrupt politicans of our time...

    February 18, 2012 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  20. Lawrence Follmer

    Reminds me a lot of the bigots that were going to stone the woman caught in adultery. Whatever Jesus wrote in the sand caused them all to go home. Most of our congresspeople have dirty hands at some time in their career.

    February 18, 2012 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  21. fekt

    to avoid turning it into a political grandstanding witch hunt or to get out of having to face criticisms of their own ethics violations or more likely both.

    February 18, 2012 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  22. Scott

    This woman is a joke.

    Until we elect people with character who are worthy of respect, We will continue to suffer the same problems in Washington.

    February 18, 2012 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  23. shesNuts

    Way to go! She knows you are the devi1 if you stand in her way. What comes around, goes around. Seeya don't wanna be ya

    February 18, 2012 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  24. Greg693

    I bet that the real reason these six are recusing themselves is because they have done the exact thing that Rep. Waters has been accused of doing.

    February 18, 2012 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  25. Juicy Rebond

    Rep. Waters is the lowest form of elected official. She rails against the injustices of the world and then uses her position to advance her own monetary gain. She is corrupt as the day is long and should be removed from the House and placed in Federal prison for a long period of time. She claims racial bias when it suits her and takes advantage of race with convieient. She is a sad case of a human.

    February 18, 2012 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
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