Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) doesn’t know why two of the ethics committee lawyers who had been working on the ethics case against her were placed on administrative leave. But she does know that something “has gone wrong in the ethics process.” And she’s got plenty of questions.
Waters said in a statement late Wednesday that the House ethics committee has yet to inform her directly that two of the lawyers working on the ethics case against her had been suspended. She said the “integrity of the Committee and its investigative process have been compromised” and called on the panel to clarify why the disciplinary action had been taken.“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 issued late Wednesday.
Committee lawyers Cindy Morgan Kim and Stacy Sovereign were placed on administrative leave on Nov. 19, the day the panel announced the Waters trial had been delayed.
Blake Chisam, staff director of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, has not responded to several request for comment on the dismissal of Kim and Sovereign. He is the only staff member of the tight-lipped committee authorized to speak on the matter.
There have been no allegations of wrongdoing, at least publicly, against Kim or Sovereign so far. They both reportedly remain on the House payroll but are not working on any active investigations.
The full statement issued by Waters on Wednesday evening is below:
“On Monday morning, the day my ethics hearing was supposed to take place, I reiterated my disappointment that the Ethics Committee canceled the hearing. Furthermore, I referred to the explanation that the Committee offered for delaying the hearing as ‘nothing more than an excuse’, and I called on the Committee to ‘schedule my hearing before the end of the session or tell me, my constituents, and the American public the real reason for this delay’.
It appears that we now know the real reason for the delay: Something has gone wrong in the ethics process.
Although the Committee itself has neither informed me directly, nor commented publicly, news reports have revealed that the attorneys leading the Committee’s efforts to build a case against me have been removed from the case. In fact, they were placed on administrative leave on November 19th, the very same day that the Committee announced the hearing scheduled for November 29th was cancelled. It seems their conduct was so egregious, that the Committee’s chief counsel wanted them fired.
The Committee should communicate the reasons for this disciplinary action. Important questions must be answered.
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?
We don’t know the specifics, but we know that the integrity of the Committee and its investigative process have been compromised. The longer the Committee withholds the details of its actions, the more the public’s confidence in the House ethics process is eroded.
From the beginning, I have been concerned with the Committee’s unsupported conclusions, often contradictory arguments, and unfounded negative inferences. It now seems that these concerns were justified, as the Committee’s sanctioning of its own attorneys is an acknowledgement of flaws and failures in the Committee’s processes and handling of my case.
The Committee must reveal immediately the circumstances that prompted its action. Transparency is of the utmost importance at this critical moment.
As I have consistently maintained during the entire course of this investigation, there was no benefit, no improper action, no failure to disclose, no one influenced, and for these reasons, there is no case.