Ethics: Lawmakers didn’t ‘knowingly’ break rules with Azerbaijan gifts

Ethics: Lawmakers didn’t ‘knowingly’ break rules with Azerbaijan gifts
© G

The House Ethics Committee on Friday closed an investigation into 10 lawmakers and 32 congressional aides, finding that they did not “knowingly” break any law or House rule when they accepted airfare and gifts that were secretly funded by Azerbaijan’s state-owned oil company.

But the Ethics panel said “third parties” outside the House may have broken the law by misleading congressional investigators, as well as lawmakers and staffers on the trip. The panel said it would refer the matter to the Justice Department.

ADVERTISEMENT

Investigators found that money for airfare and gifts may have been hidden through Texas-based nonprofits, which filed false statements saying they were paying for the trip.

“The Committee is referring the matter of third parties apparently engaging in a criminal conspiracy to lie to Congress to the Department of Justice for such further action as it deems appropriate,” the Ethics Chairman Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), the ranking member, said in a joint statement.

The Ethics Committee said all of the lawmakers and staff members who attended the 2013 trip did so only after receiving prior approval from the same Ethics panel. And those questioned in the investigation all cooperated, the committee said.

“The Committee found no evidence that the members and staff who participated in the trip knowingly violated any House Rule, law, regulation or other standard of conduct,” the Ethics panel said.

The probe included a dozen subpoenas, interviews with 10 witnesses, 18 voluntary requests for information, and 190,000 pages of material.  

“Because the House travelers acted in good faith, and the evidence was inconclusive as to the true source of funds for the travel, the Committee concluded that the trips did not constitute an impermissible gift of travel, and decided that no further action is required," the panel wrote.

The 10 lawmakers exonerated by the Ethics Committee were Reps. Jim BridenstineJames (Jim) Frederick BridenstineNASA plans to open the International Space Station for business NASA plans to open the International Space Station for business NASA renames street in front of headquarters after 'Hidden Figures' MORE (R-Okla.), Ted PoeLloyd (Ted) Theodore PoeSenate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion Senate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion Texas New Members 2019 MORE (R-Texas), Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksTop Finance Democrat offers bill to end tax breaks for private prison companies Top Finance Democrat offers bill to end tax breaks for private prison companies Criticism punctuates Nadler's leadership of Trump probe MORE (D-N.Y.), Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeDemocrats banking on Hicks testimony to advance Trump probes Democrats banking on Hicks testimony to advance Trump probes McConnell: Reparations aren't 'a good idea' MORE (D-Texas), Yvette ClarkeYvette Diane ClarkeHillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data House Democrats question DHS over using facial recognition tech on US citizens MORE (D-N.Y.), Danny DavisDaniel (Danny) K. DavisRestore Pell Grant eligibility to people in prison Pelosi joins other Dem leaders in support of Chicago Symphony Orchestra strikers Democrats must stand up for Israel MORE (D-Ill.), Rubén Hinojosa (D-Texas), Leonard LanceLeonard LancePush for ‘Medicare for all’ worries centrist Dems Incoming Dem lawmaker: Trump 'sympathizes' with leaders 'accused of moral transgressions' On The Money: Why the tax law failed to save the GOP majority | Grassley opts for Finance gavel, setting Graham up for Judiciary | Trump says China eager for trade deal | Facebook reeling after damning NYT report MORE (R-N.J.), Michelle Lujan GrishamMichelle Lynn Lujan GrishamNew Mexico bans employers from asking about applicants' criminal history New Mexico bans employers from asking about applicants' criminal history Trump antagonizes both parties on trade MORE (D-N.M.) and then-Rep. Steve StockmanStephen (Steve) Ernest StockmanFormer aide sentenced for helping ex-congressman in fraud scheme Former congressman sentenced to 10 years in prison for campaign finance scheme Rising expectations could change North Korea forever MORE (R-Texas).