Rep. Maxine Waters claimed she did not violate House rules and called for her ethics trial to begin as quickly as possible.
In an unusual recess press conference in Washington Friday morning, the 10-term California Democrat defended herself to reporters, even using a PowerPoint presentation by her chief of staff to drive home her points.
"I have arranged this press conference to present my facts in the case and clear up ambiguities and misinformation," she said in a pre-written statement. "I recognize the transparency that I am providing may not eliminate an adjudicatory hearing. To reiterate, I am in fact anxious to share these facts with you and the public because I have not violated any House rules.
"Unfortunately, the committee has not yet specified a date for a hearing on this matter, and given the congressional schedule it is possible that no hearing would be held for months, even after the November elections," she said. "Such a delay is unacceptable, considering that the investigation has dragged out for almost a year."
Waters, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, has vigorously defended herself since the ethics panel released its charges; she has repeatedly said that she was simply acting to provide help for minority- and female-owned financial firms.
"Neither my staff nor I engaged in any improper behavior; we did not influence anyone; and we did not gain any benefit," she said. "This case is not just about me. This case is about access, about access to those who are not heard by people in power."
During the press conference, Waters rarely veered off-script, in contrast to her colleague, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) who also faces an ethics trial for allegedly violating 13 House ethics rules. Rangel spoke in his defense three times this week, often speaking without prepared remarks.
Waters said that she did not discuss the decision to hold her press conference with House leadership, which was reportedly upset with Rangel's decision to deliver a 30-minute address on the House floor following its vote on a state-aid bill Tuesday.
She also downplayed talk that her ethics trial, which could happen around the same time as Rangel's, will hurt Democrats in the November midterm elections.
"Let me just say there is a lot of speculation that what happens on either side of the aisle of what's going to happen," she said. "As far as I am concerned, most of it is speculation."
The ethics committee's case focuses on a meeting Waters helped arrange between Treasury Department and National Bankers Association (NBA) officials. According to the committee, the NBA officials were acting on behalf of OneUnited Bank, in which Waters's husband was invested and once served on its board of directors.
The panel points to e-mails between Waters's chief of staff, Mikael Moore, who is also her grandson, and OneUnited officials as proof that her office was trying to secure Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds for the bank. The firm eventually received $12 million in TARP money.
In her defense Waters said she never asked for special favors for OneUnited Bank and did not ask for a meeting with Treasury officials just for one individual bank.
Waters also said that she would not address issues of race, even though she has previously mentioned them as playing a role in the ethics committee's decision-making.
"I will not be taking questions about the supposed issue of race in this matter," she said.
She also refused to discuss Rangel's case during the question-and-answer session with reporters.
Waters introduced the evidentiary presentation by claiming that, had
the investigative subcommittee considered its contents, she would not
be on trial.
"The fact that the investigative subcommittee ignored or disregarded key pieces of exculpatory evidence crucial to my case is extremely troubling," she said.
If the panel "would have taken all the evidence into consideration ... I believe if this had been done, we would not be here today," she said.
She also echoed her oft-repeated line, "No benefit, no improper action, no failure to disclose, no one influenced: no case" and reiterated she would not cut a deal to avoid a trial.
The roundtable with reporters began at 10 a.m. and was scheduled to last two hours.
—This post was updated at 11:02 a.m and 11:17 a.m.