Texas Congressman Henry Cuellar declares innocence amid report of incoming indictment

By Matthew Choi, The Texas Tribune

Texas Congressman Henry Cuellar declares innocence amid report of incoming indictment” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, asserted his innocence in a statement Friday after NBC News reported federal investigators were planning to indict the long-time congressman.

The nature of the potential indictment remains unclear. FBI agents raideded Cuellar’s Laredo home and office in 2022 — weeks before his primary election— though his lawyer at the time asserted he was not the target of the investigation. ABC News reported shortly after that the investigation was related to Cuellar, his wife and one of his campaign staffers and their alleged ties to Azerbaijan. Cuellar is a member of the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus.

In his Friday statement, Cuellar said his actions were “consistent with the actions of many of my colleagues and in the interest of the American people.”

“I want to be clear that both my wife and I are innocent of these allegations,” Cuellar said without addressing what the allegations were about. “Before I took any action, I proactively sought legal advice from the House Ethics Committee, who gave me more than one written opinion, along with an additional opinion from a national law firm.”

The Texas Tribune and several national news organizations asked a federal court to unseal the search warrant in 2022.

Cuellar added that he will still run for reelection in November.

The 2022 search on Cuellar’s home came only a few months before a competitive primary against progressive candidate Jessica Cisneros, a Laredo-based immigration attorney. He ended up winning in the primary by 0.6 percentage points.

Cuellar is the fourth-longest serving Democrat in the Texas delegation and is an established fixture in the House Democratic Caucus. He is known for his centrist policy priorities, including votes reflecting his personal aversion to abortion and in support of stricter border security.

He is also a major proponent of the oil and gas industry, which is responsible for a large part of his district’s economy. Azerbaijan is a major oil and gas producer.

Still, he is well respected within the Democratic Caucus for his prolific fundraising and reliability on major votes that count. Democratic leadership under Speaker Nancy Pelosi supported Cuellar when Cisneros challenged him in the 2020 and 2022 primaries. Cuellar won in both primaries and the 2022 general election, despite heavy investment from Republicans to flip South Texas. He beat his 2022 Republican opponent, Cassy Garcia, by over 13 points.

Two Republican challengers will face off in a May 28 runoff for the chance to challenge Cuellar in the general: Jay Furman and Lazaro Garzo. After Cuellar’s 2022 win, Republicans have considered the district less competitive and are investing more heavily in the nearby Rio Grande Valley-based 15th and 34th districts.

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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2024/05/03/henry-cuellar-texas-indicted-doj/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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