Waters dismisses evidence in ethics case as 'staff chatter'

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) on Friday brushed aside a key piece of evidence in the ethics case against her as "staff chatter."

Waters continued her public defense in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America," maintaining her innocence and accusing ethics investigators of doing "sloppy work."

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The embattled California Democrat is accused of breaking conflict-of-interest rules by using her position to arrange a meeting in 2008 with Treasury officials for the failing OneUnited Bank, in which her husband was a stockholder and former board member. The bank eventually received $12 million in bailout funds.

Asked about an e-mail between her chief of staff and grandson Mikael Moore and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) that the ethics panel used in its case, Waters was dismissive.

"So what does that mean? Is that the kind of e-mail that is sent between staff? It's more staff chatter than anything else. It does not identify that he took any action," she said.

The e-mail, dated Sept. 18, 2008, read: "OU [OneUnited] is in trouble." 

Waters's interview is yet another sign that the lawmaker is anticipating a public trial instead of trying to broker a settlement with the panel. 

Last week, Waters held a rare recess press conference on Capitol Hill, which lasted 90 minutes and included a detailed defense outlined in a PowerPoint presentation given by Moore.

The Financial Services Committee member's trial comes alongside the 13 ethics charges against another Democrat, Rep. Charles Rangel (N.Y.), who also wants a public trial.

Both hearings could prove damaging for Democrats, who are trying to keep their congressional majorities in the fall midterms. Democratic leaders have said that the ethics process is working and will prove that their party has stricter ethics safeguards than their GOP counterparts did when they controlled Congress.

But Waters again fired back at the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, saying "they don't do good work, rather sloppy work." Waters supports legislation to limit the board's authority.

"It's kind of a complicated case, and a little but hard to understand all of the details of it," she said.

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