Report: House Ethics Lawyers Kept Probing Waters After Investigation Phase Ended

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Two former federal prosecutors who were suspended from the House ethics committee — both of whom previously worked for Republican appointed judges — reportedly kept probing allegations against Rep. Maxine Waters even after the subcommittee recommended the California Democrat be tried for ethics violations.

Cindy Morgan Kim and Stacy Sovereign apparently ruffled feathers by continuing to investigate Waters after the investigative subcommittee made its recommendations in August, several Republican sources on Capitol Hill told the Washington Post.

“They were pushing too hard” to broaden the investigation, one Republican staff aide told the newspaper. Kim and Sovereign circulated a memo supporting the postponement of the trial and imploring the committee to investigate further, the source said.Kim and Sovereign were placed on administrative leave on Nov. 19, the same day that the panel announced the Waters trial had been delayed.

Both attorneys had worked in the Justice Department. Kim was employed by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General for a year, reviewing programs and investigating “sensitive allegations involving high-level department employees at the request of the attorney general or congressional committees.” She previously worked for the House ethics office from 2006 to July 2008. A spokeswoman for the Inspector General’s office did not immediately respond to a request for details on Kim’s work for the office. Sovereign worked for DOJ’s internal ethics watchdog, the Office of Professional Responsibility.

Sovereign had clerked for then-Judge Kenneth Starr on the D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, while Kim worked for Judge Kenneth L. Ryskamp, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush.

A lawyer for both women said that his clients were not aware of the accusations against them.

“My clients were inexplicably placed on administrative leave by the chairman of the House Ethics Committee,” Richard Sauber told the Wall Street Journal. “These two highly regarded former federal prosecutors have performed their duties for the committee in a manner consistent with the highest ethical and professional standards, and any suggestion that they have done anything inappropriate is false and defamatory. We are working within the committee process to resolve these issues.” Sauber hasn’t responded to TPM’s requests for comment.

One source familiar with the Waters investigation told TPM that Kim and House Ethics Committee staff director Blake Chisam had clashed over the Waters case. Chisam has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Waters had plenty of questions about the dismissal of the two lawyers.

“Did the Committee’s attorneys withhold exculpatory evidence? Leak documents or speak to the press without authorization? Engage in partisan activity? Mislead Members of Congress? Was the disciplinary action justified? What impact does this have on my case?” Waters said in a statement.

If Waters’ theory that press leaks had something to do with the suspensions had any merit, House staffers got the message — House aides and multiple spokespersons for various House offices contacted by TPM declined to comment.

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