Feds Raided a House Democrat’s Home Over an Investigation Involving Azerbaijan: Report
The FBI executed a search warrant at Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar’s Laredo, Texas, home and office on Wednesday as part of a probe into Azerbaijan and “several U.S. businessmen,” ABC News reported Thursday night.
An aide to Cuellar said he will “fully cooperate” in the investigation, and “is committed to ensuring that justice and the law are upheld.” The investigation is being aided by a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. It is unclear if Cuellar himself is a target. The Department of Justice’s Public Integrity unit is involved in the investigation, according to CNN.
“The FBI was present in the vicinity of Windridge Drive and Estate Drive in Laredo conducting court-authorized law enforcement activity,” an FBI spokesperson said in the statement.
Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic, is a nation of barely 10 million, but there is still a Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus, and Cuellar has been a member since 2013. According to the Azerbaijani Embassy, the Assembly of the Friends of Azerbaijan (AFAZ), a Houston-based nonprofit, was involved in facilitating his membership.
AFAZ was the subject of a 2015 review by the Office of Congressional Ethics for allegedly being a conduit for Azerbaijan’s state-owned energy company to fund an all-expenses-paid overseas energy conference in 2013 for members of Congress and former White House aides. Cuellar was not among those in attendance, but the trip demonstrates how the nation has tried to influence American politics. The ethics report from 2015 notes that lawmakers and their staffs receives hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gifts on the trip.
A moderate Democrat, Cuellar is in a hotly contested primary against one of his former interns, immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros, who lost to Cuellar by fewer than 3,000 votes out of 75,000 cast in the last midterm elections. Cisneros is endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.), who described Cuellar as “the last anti-choice ‘Democrat’ in the House who … had a 70 percent voting record of siding with Donald Trump.” Cuellar was the only Democratic vote in the House against the Women’s Health Protection Act, which was introduced last year to preserve abortion access nationwide after states like Texas passed laws restricting the practice.
In a statement Thursday, Cisneros’s campaign said they are “aware of the news regarding Congressman Cuellar and the active FBI investigation. We are closely watching as this develops. In the meantime, we are focused on our campaign to deliver change to South Texas families and will not be making any additional comments at this time.”
Cuellar has represented Texas’ 28th Congressional District, which encompasses the Rio Grande Valley along the U.S.-Mexico border, since 2005. Prior to that, he briefly served as Secretary of State under then-Gov. Rick Perry, and was a member of the Texas House of Representatives for 14 years beginning in 1987.