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Is The Sordid Saga Of Pelosi's Favorite Texas Democrap Henry Cuellar Finally Sputtering To An End?

Cuellar Has Been Taking Bribes For Decades— The FBI Finally Caught Him

When the story broke on Friday about Henry Cuellar finally being indicted for taking a $600,000 bribe, I got several calls, including one from a member of Congress— asking me how I knew so far in advance. Over the years, I’ve rarely written Cuellar’s name without using the word “corrupt” as a descriptor. I decided to see if I could find the first timeI did that. I always tell people I started DWT in 2006 but the first time I used “corrupt” to describe Cuellar was… in 2005! Wow! We’re a year older than I thought we were! We first looked at this particular bribe just over two years ago. Do you think I knew but Pelosi, Hoyer, Jeffries and Aguilar didn’t? They knew and they kept fighting— savagely— to protect this corrupt, reactionary sack of shit from being primaried.

Their efforts have made the Democratic Party brand and Congress itself worse and have now endangered the Democrats’ chances of taking back the majority in November. I’m not saying that Pelosi, Hoyer, Jeffries and Aguilar should commit seppuku on the floor of the House— or even in private— but just that they should man up and announce that they are retiring from Congress tomorrow. I don’t expect any of them to, though. 

As David Dayen noted on Friday, “When Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) faced a primary challenge two years ago from progressive Jessica Cisneros, the Democratic leadership closed ranks. They held fundraisers for Cuellar, recorded robocalls for him, appeared at rallies in his district, and took every possible opportunity to nudge Cuellar, a Blue Dog who voted against Democratic priorities on several occasions, across the finish line. After a recount, he ended up winning by only 289 votes. It’s plausible that the establishment money and support made the difference. The leadership justified standing behind the only anti-abortion Democrat in Congress by saying that only he could win that district in South Texas, which Joe Biden took in 2020 by seven points. A progressive would be too risky in TX-28, at a time when the House majority would come down to just a few seats.”

Cuellar— an oil shill, NRA poster boy, anti-Choice fanatic, anti-union, anti-immigrant and, most importantly, easily bribed— was the Texas GOP’s favorite Democrat even back when he was in the state legislature. Once he got into Congress, the NRCC never made a serious attempt to defeat him. In fact, when the new district lines were redrawn in 2020, the Republican legislature gave Cuellar a big sloppy wet kiss, as his district went from a precarious D+4 partisan lean to a nice safe D+7 lean. 

Sinema & Cuellar bonded when she was chair of the Blue Dogs

In case you missed it, the Justice department finally indicted him. Why exactly? Good question. Here’s the simple answer: “bribery, unlawful foreign influence and money laundering.”

[B]eginning in at least December 2014 and continuing through at least November 2021, Congressman Cuellar and Imelda Cuellar allegedly accepted approximately $600,000 in bribes from two foreign entities: an oil and gas company wholly owned and controlled by the Government of Azerbaijan, and a bank headquartered in Mexico City. The bribe payments were allegedly laundered, pursuant to sham consulting contracts, through a series of front companies and middlemen into shell companies owned by Imelda Cuellar, who performed little to no legitimate work under the contracts. In exchange for the bribes paid by the Azerbaijani oil and gas company, Congressman Cuellar allegedly agreed to use his office to influence U.S. foreign policy in favor of Azerbaijan. In exchange for the bribes paid by the Mexican bank, Congressman Cuellar allegedly agreed to influence legislative activity and to advise and pressure high-ranking U.S. Executive Branch officials regarding measures beneficial to the bank. 
Congressman Cuellar and Imelda Cuellar are each charged with the following offenses and if convicted, face maximum penalties as indicated: two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery of a federal official and to have a public official act as an agent of a foreign principal, five years in prison on each count; two counts of bribery of a federal official, 15 years in prison on each count; two counts of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, 20 years in prison on each count; two counts of violating the ban on public officials acting as agents of a foreign principal, two years in prison on each count; one count of conspiracy to commit concealment money laundering, 20 years in prison; and five counts of money laundering, 20 years in prison on each count.

In exchange for the bribes— likely far far more than the $600,000— Cuellar pushed policy in favor of Azerbaijan, including adding language to defense spending legislation to prioritize ties to Azerbaijan, a corrupt Mafia state, and working to kill legislation prioritized by members who supported Armenian interests. Unrelated to Azerbaijan, he also worked with a Mexican bank on legislation that would have been beneficial to the payday lending industry (in return for $200,000). Cuellar associate Kemal Oksuz, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to coordinating the coverup of Azerbaijani's role in financing a 2013 congressional trip to oil-rich Azerbaijan, went to prison.

Instead of kicking him out of Congress— the way the Republicans finally got rid of George Santos— Hakeem Jeffries immediately announced that Cuellar is presumed innocent— end of story. Other Democrats are calling on him to resign immediately… the only chance Democrats would have to retain the seat.

1 Comment

May 05

called it. a person can't even agree with you. wtf is wrong with you anyway?

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