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.


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 BridenstineWhy Voyager 2's discoveries from interstellar space have scientists excited NASA planned expedition to orbit Pluto won't settle whether it's a planet NASA Administrator: 'I believe Pluto is a planet' MORE (R-Okla.), Ted PoeLloyd (Ted) Theodore PoeSenate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion Texas New Members 2019 Cook shifts two House GOP seats closer to Dem column MORE (R-Texas), Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksCNN: Biden likened Clinton impeachment to 'partisan lynching' in 1998 House Democrat urges anti-Trump resistance within administration to come 'out of the shadows' Ten notable Democrats who do not favor impeachment MORE (D-N.Y.), Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeConsequential GOP class of 1994 all but disappears Video of Greta Thunberg crossing paths with Trump at UN goes viral Lewandowski: House testimony shows I'd be 'a fighter' in the Senate MORE (D-Texas), Yvette ClarkeYvette Diane ClarkeDemocrats demand FCC act over leak of phone location data Hillicon Valley: Google buying Fitbit for .1B | US launches national security review of TikTok | Twitter shakes up fight over political ads | Dems push committee on 'revenge porn' law Booker introduces bill banning facial recognition tech in public housing MORE (D-N.Y.), Danny DavisDaniel (Danny) K. DavisCNN: Biden likened Clinton impeachment to 'partisan lynching' in 1998 Lawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show The 13 House Democrats who back Kavanaugh's impeachment MORE (D-Ill.), Rubén Hinojosa (D-Texas), Leonard LanceLeonard LanceGun debate to shape 2020 races GOP fears Trump backlash in suburbs Bottom Line MORE (R-N.J.), Michelle Lujan GrishamMichelle Lynn Lujan GrishamHere are 16 places celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day for the first time this year New Mexico releases plan to provide free college to all state residents: report The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico MORE (D-N.M.) and then-Rep. Steve StockmanStephen (Steve) Ernest StockmanConsequential GOP class of 1994 all but disappears Former aide sentenced for helping ex-congressman in fraud scheme Former congressman sentenced to 10 years in prison for campaign finance scheme MORE (R-Texas).